Green party leader Elizabeth May assails natural gas fracking

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      Elizabeth May, the leader of the federal Green party, believes a controversial method of recovering natural gas buried in rock is being spurred on by a desperate addiction to fossil fuels.

      During an interview at the Georgia Straight offices, May said of hydraulic fracturing: “We’re against it, full stop.”

      In reality, the planet is running out of “cheap and abundant” energy, May noted.

      “In our desperation to hang on to something that is in declining supply, and increasing in price, we are prepared to spend more money, more energy, and do more environmental damage to squeeze out the last bits, such as scraping bitumen in Alberta [tar sands], such as trying to blow apart rock with high-pressure water to liberate natural gas, at the same time running the risk of massive water contamination,” May said.

      On April 13, activist Will Koop of the B.C. Tap Water Alliance send a two-page letter to B.C.’s ministers of energy and mines; environment; and forests, lands, and natural resources operations—Rich Coleman, Terry Lake, and Steve Thomson—and demanded a public inquiry be held into fracking in B.C.’s northeast.

      “The B.C. Tap Water Alliance is calling upon the province of British Columbia to conduct a full public enquiry and hearing process into the environmental and social impacts of shale gas developments, and to lay out clear recommendations to reduce the cumulative impacts on the environment, human health and water resources,” Koop wrote.

      Elizabeth May on fracking and energy planning.

      May noted that her party advocates a national energy strategy, claiming Canada is the only OECD country that does not have one.

      “So we need a plan,” May said. “And that planning will for a long time include some participation of fossil fuels in our energy-use mix, but we need to massively improve energy efficiency and conservation, which could, by enormous orders of magnitude, be more useful to our economy than fracking.”



      John Collins

      Apr 13, 2011 at 8:39pm

      Watch the documentary Gasland (nominated for an Academy Award this year) and you will know why this is such an important issue. Some people in areas where fracking is used to extract natural gas can actually set their drinking water on fire.

      Kim Collins

      Apr 14, 2011 at 2:28am

      Wow, a leader who acknowledges peak oil and advocates for pragmatically transitioning off of fossil fuels! How refreshingly based in reality Ms. May is. It's a shame she wasn't allowed to participate in the debates. We need someone knowledgeable like her who will bring these vital issues onto the national stage.

      As for natural gas fracking, I agree we need to look at it seriously here in BC. Quebec is holding off on fracking and there was some disturbing research released on the topic this week in the US:

      "In January, a ProPublica investigation found that large amounts of "fugitive" emissions were left out of common comparisons between coal and gas and that if these emissions were counted the advantages of natural gas dwindled. Our report found that the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions estimates from hydraulic fracturing in shale formations were 9,000 times higher than the agency had previously estimated. We also quoted Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor, saying that he would soon release research that showed that the emissions from gas were even worse.

      More details of Howarth's research, which is reportedly scheduled to be published in the journal Climatic Change, were released by The Hill and The New York Times this week. Howarth's conclusion -- that shale gas production is actually far dirtier than coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions -- is attracting national attention.

      Howarth's findings are based in part on the EPA's revelation that far more gas escapes into the atmosphere in production fields than was previously known, and on a mathematical tweaking of the intensity of methane gas' effect on the atmosphere. Howarth, whose figures for total emissions exceed even the EPA's revised estimates, calculates the impact of methane in the atmosphere over a 20-year period, saying the urgent need to address short-term climate change justifies that calculation. Over 20 years, methane is considered 72 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in its effects on climate change. Using that approach, Howarth concludes that gas may be between 20 and 100 percent dirtier than coal."