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India And World  Threatened By US-led Shale Gas Fracking

By Dr Gideon Polya

09 January, 2011

India has a very low annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution of about 2 tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year as compared to 27 for the US . This means that for a safe Planet India has about 40 years to get to zero CO2 emissions while the US must do this in 10 years (see Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, “Terra quasi-incognita: beyond the 2 degree C line”< 4 Degrees & Beyond, International Climate Conference, 26-30 September 2009, Oxford University, UK: http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/ppt/1-1schellnhuber.pdf ). In the path to zero emissions (and beyond) India must not make the same mistakes as the European World which is responsible for 71% of post-Industrial Revolution carbon dioxide (CO2)  pollution in the atmosphere. India has already made huge mistakes in relation to permitting cigarette smoking and cars. However India has huge shale gas deposits (see “Shale gas”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shale_gas ) and for the sake of India and the Planet Indians must ensure that this gas is not exploited – it represents a huge threat to India and to Humanity.   

India has huge reserves of natural gas trapped in shale fields. Such natural gas is being accessed on a huge scale in the US through horizontal drilling and “fracking”, whereby shale deposits are fractured to release the gas through pumping water and a cocktail of chemicals are pumped at huge pressure into shale rock formations to push gas into pockets for easier recovery. Shale gas enthusiast Max Schultz writes: “Proven reserves of natural gas in the United States have been revised upward by 50 percent in the last decade, and those numbers are sure to climb higher as more shale gas is discovered. Perhaps not surprisingly, other nations are sending geologists to the United States to study techniques for extracting gas from unconventional sources. China , India , and Australia all have enormous shale fields . In the coming decades, the shale gale won't be just an American phenomenon; it will blow all over the globe . Physics ensures that a green renewable energy economy promised by President Obama will never happen, no matter how much wishful thinking and government subsidy is applied.” (see Max Schultz, “The Quiet Energy Revolution”: http://zinowl.blogspot.com/2010/02/physics-quiet-energy-revolution.html ). In reality, shale gas is a huge threat to India .

Because natural gas-fired power plants emit half the CO2 and much lower levels of other pollutants per unit energy produced as coal-fired plants there is a big push for a coal to gas transition. However methane (CH4; the major constituent of natural gas) leaks and  is 72 times worse than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a greenhouse gas (GHG) on a 20 year time scale. It can be readily calculated that a 3.7% leakage of CH4 yields that same GHG effect as burning the remaining 96.7% of the CH4 (see Gideon Polya, “ Gulf oil & gas disaster, lobbyists, Obama & huge threat of natural gas (methane) to Humanity & Biosphere”, Bellaciao, 19 June 2010 : http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article19926 ) . Thus if gas-fired power plants have half the CO2 pollution of coal-fired plants then a 3.7% gas leakage would mean that gas-fired plants would be about as a dirty GHG-wise as coal-fired plants i.e. a coal to gas transition would be a wasted investment from a GHG perspective .

 The US EPA has recently re-assessed the percentage (%) of natural gas (mostly methane) that leaks industrially. According to David Lewis in an article entitled “EPA confirms natural gas leakage rates”  (The Energy Collective, 7 December 2010: http://www.theenergycollective.com/david-lewis/48209/epa-confirms-high-natural-gas-leakage-rates  ) this means that :   “ 3.25 % of US natural gas production leaks into the atmosphere as methane gas .  The industry has been saying the leaks are tiny, less than a fraction of 1%.”

We know that natural gas is not “clean energy” because gas-fired power plants generate the GHG CO2 and are variously associated with other deleterious pollutants including carbon particulates, sulphur dioxide (SO2),  carbon monoxide (CO), carcinogenic aromatics, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatics, variously toxic fat-soluble organometallics, and nitrogen oxides including nitrous oxide (N2O), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO) (collectively termed NOx) that are variously deleterious to human health, plant growth and the environment (see Gideon Polya, “ A detailed resource to stop the Gas Boom, Gas Rush, Gasland obscenity devastating Australia and America”, Bellaciao, 27 December 2010: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article20410 ).

This latest data on industrial gas leakage means that natural gas burning is about as dirty GHG-wise as coal burning. New gas- and coal-fired power plants should not be built. Indeed a country like Australia can have 100% renewable energy by 2020 using existing technologies (see Beyond Zero Emissions Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, ZCA2020: http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/about/bze-brand ).

We need to keep all fossil fuels in the ground and to eliminate other GHG sources (notably CH4 from livestock production that may represent over 51% of total annual GHG pollution according to World Bank analysts Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. “Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs ands chickens?”, World Watch, November/December 2009: http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf  ). Even zero emissions is not enough – top scientists (including the world's top coral experts) say that we must return the atmospheric CO2 concentration from the present dangerous 392 parts per million (ppm) to a level of about 300 ppm for a  safe planet for all peoples and all species (see 300.org: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org---return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm ). 100% renewable energy by 2020 is eminently feasible for all countries with plenty of wind and sunlight (e.g. see Beyond Zero Emissions: http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/about/bze-brand ).

High natural gas leakage means that Humanity  must stop the gas boom, the gas rush and the global worsening of the scenario exposed in the movie Gasland in which US drinking water is being horribly contaminated through industrial "fracking" (deep underground rock fracturing to release natural gas) (see “Gasland”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1558250/ ).

During US President Obama's visit to India in November 2010 India and the US agreed to cooperate in the fields of “clean” energy technology and shale gas with Obama stating: “"We agreed to deepen our co-operation in pursuit of clean energy technologies, including the creation of a new clean energy research centre here in India, and continuing our joint research into solar, biofuels, shale gas and building efficiency." Solar energy and building  efficiency is just fine, but gas is not “clean”, shale gas will be a disaster for India and the World and biofuel has driven up food prices driving a  worsening biofuel genocide (that already contributes to the avoidable death from deprivation of about  20 million people annually, this including about 5 million in South Asia) (see “Biofuel Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/biofuelgenocide/ and Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”: http://globalavoidablemortality.blogspot.com/ ).

India is acutely threatened by man-made global warming. Indeed it  is estimated that unaddressed man-made global warming will kill 2 billion Indians this century (see “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ ). If it permits “fracking” of its huge shale gas deposits, India  will ultimately be the agent of its own destruction.

Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches science students at a major Australian university. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contribution “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open2.net/thingsweforgot/ bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .   



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