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Comment: Re:Does This Make Sense? (Score 1) 318 318

In the U.S., the vast majority of electricity still comes from Coal.
As much as I inherently love the idea of a totally-electric car (actually, a true fuel-cell car would be even nicer!), I just can't get past the fact that everyone in the U.S., at least, has to be (conveniently) overlooking the reality of where the electricity comes from.
As long as the answer to that is "Fossil Fuels" (and particularly, coal), then we are doing nothing but trading one smoke-plume for another.
And worse yet, losing overall efficiency in the process.
Please someone who understands the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics better than I, tell me how I am wrong.

Fossil-fuel internal combustion engines in commercial vehicles are very inefficient. Electric power plants are very efficient. The dirtiest coal-burning power plant is many times more efficient (and emits less carbon per unit of energy) than the most efficient fossil-fuel powered commercial car. Therefore, an electric car using electricity derived from a coal power plant is still more efficient or "green" than a regular commercial fossil-fuel car. The equation gets even better when you consider our electric grid's power is on average only 39% derived from coal, and shrinking.

Comment: Re:Simple Demand. (Score 1) 328 328

There's always sampling yourself then, regardless of what the O/G comany or their engineer does. It's not a huge cost if that's what you need for peace of mind. If anything is awry showing them your data would get their full attention really quick.

People should be sampling their wells regularly anyway, regardless of surrounding drilling activity. Honestly, if there was a gas station, dry cleaner, or industrial park nearby or uphill from my house, that would concern me more than contamination from fracking. There are even a lot of naturally-occuring metals (arsenic, barium, berylium are some of the more common ones) which can foul water and require a home filtration/treatment system

Comment: Re:Simple Demand. (Score 1) 328 328

My concern was not that the potential polluter would use a non-accredited lab, but that he wouldn't do any testing at all: just discard the samples and claim that there was no problem. I suppose I could deal with that possibility by demanding the analysis paperwork, but if I get stonewalled on my request, I have to have the testing done myself anyway. It seems simpler to just do it myself from the beginning. Am I being too distrustful?

I think that's a little too distrustful, because ultimately the O/G company wants evidence that is 100% acceptable to a court of law. Anything, including inaction, which can't stand up to legal scrutiny isn't worth a dime to them. If there was any question about a sample collected, or question whether or not they should sample at all, they would probably err on the side of resampling/sampling just to legally cover their ass. Besides, the cost to sample a homeowners well for an O/G company is so cheap it's not worth the risk not to do it. If I had to guess at costs for sampling, lab analysis, and a letter report back to the home owner, it's probably less than $500 per household well. That's pocket-change to them...honestly.

Comment: Re:School me on well water (Score 1) 328 328

FWIW, I am an environmental consultant, a geologist, I live in Pennsylvania, I do not work for any oil and gas companies, so I have no conflict of interest (you'll have to trust me there), but I am interested in the subject and have done quite a bit of my own research.

Companies don't frack when the natural gas can contaminate the ground water, because they can get the natural gas cheaper with conventional means. They frack when there's impermeable rock above the natural gas, which normally keeps the gas away from the aquifer.

This is an incorrect understanding of fracking and geology in general. "Impenetrable rock" above the shale is irrelevant, because fracking anything other than the gas-bearing shale formation would be a huge waste of time/money. In gas-bearing shale formations the gas is locked up in the matrix of the shale and cannot easily flow into a gas well. The fracking targets the gas-bearing shale formation to artificially increase the inter-connections so that gas can flow within and out of the formation. Or another way to think of is by surface area...a well in an unfractured formation only has the exposed surface area immediately around the well borehole to gather gas from, but when you fracture the surrounding rock the effective surface area of exposed rock is exponentially increased by cumulative surface area of the fractures.

As far as the 99% potable water goes, are you willing to drink a glass of anything that's 99% pure water? You're sure that about two grams of contaminant can do no harm?

Again this is a misunderstanding of reality. Frack water is 99% potable water and clean sand, the remaining 1% is are lubricants and biocides, many of which are actually food-grade, so in reality much less than 1% is anything that could be considered a "hazardous chemical". Immediately after a well is fracked the vast majority of the injected water flows back out of the well, so a fraction of that 1% is actually left in the ground. Mind you this is into a GAS formation that was unfit for human consumption before any fracking.

If that's not enough, consider also that shale gas formations are typically between 2,000 to 14,000 feet below ground, and drinking water wells are typically 50 to 500 feet deep. Fracking is powerfull, but it's not powerful to open up fractures through, literally, miles through solid rock, So, the fraction of a fraction of "hazardous chemicals" remaining in the ground after a frack would have to travel vertically thousands of feet of rock while resisting dispersion/dilution with the surrounding water to reach a well. Assuming the gas well is properly constructed and the frack wastes are properly handled it's basically impossible for frack water make it's way to a drinking well.

Before you call me a shill for the evil energy companies, there are issues with fracking we should be concerned about, but the public concern is currently misguided. We should be concerned about how the recovered contaminated frack water is being handled and disposed. We should be concerned that gas wells are properly constructed and sealed. Those are real problems, but, thankfully, can be solved with the correct regulations, oversight, and strict penalties. The problem is the public hysteria is directed at the wrong issues, and it's making it harder to address the real ones.

Comment: Re:School me on well water (Score 1) 328 328

Groundwater in NATURAL GAS formations was contaminated by mother nature millions of years before fracking. In the case of Marcellus Shale there's also naturally radioactive rock just above the Marcellus Shale. No one is drinking water sourced from anywhere near a gas formation. So, the idea that frack fluids, which are 99% clean sand and potable water mind you, are contaminating that groundwater is fundamentally flawed.

Comment: Re:Simple Demand. (Score 1) 328 328

You seem to have have fewer misconceptions than I thought at first. I'm glad you sample your well, it's alarming to me how many people do not. Personally, I think sampling your well water regularly not only protects yourself, but possibly the entire community around you.... but I digress...

Your concern that polluter would not pay for an accredited lab is probably unfounded though. The cost of analysis for an accredited vs non-accredited lab is not that much, but more importantly if a case were to go to court, any non-accredited laboratory sample results would immediately be tossed out of evidence without a second chance. That's about the easiest thing any environmental attorney can do in a case. A deep-pocketed O/G company isn't going to skimp a few bucks on analysis for a non-accredited lab with so much potential risk about.

That being said things can go wrong when sampling wells and mistakes can happen, but it's relatively rare. Independent verification or duplicate sampling is always a good idea. Obviously it costs more and would be out of the homeowner's pocket, but if you're willing to do it definitely puts you a stronger position to demand more action if something is awry.

Comment: Re:Seems the "industry" may be correct about this (Score 1) 328 328

I'm not an apologist for the oil industry and I wouldn't want to have any of these wells near my place but I did grow up in it. It seems to me extremely more likely that the issue isn't the process of fracking but ...2) some other source of contamination completely unrelated to drilling which given their measurement of the concentration at parts per trillion seems likely..

If you read the rebuttal article that the Slashdot summary calls "beltway inside mouthpieces" that's exactly what it is. The rebuttal might be unnecessarily combative, but the points it makes are still valid.

Comment: Re:The only bias in the author on Slashdot (Score 1) 328 328

The original slashdot summary is terrible. No wonder that the resulting "discussion" is equally terrible. There's a scant few posts in here that say anything intelligent with regards to science on the subject, but they are drowned out by the noise.

Comment: Re:Simple Demand. (Score 1) 328 328

...I wouldn't want the potential polluter to use his "in house" water testing facility, which might be biased. If my tester shows there is a problem, I'll send part of the sample to the potential polluter for verification, but if they balk because their numbers don't agree with the numbers from my chosen lab (which I will provide) it's lawsuit time.

I'm an environmental consultant and you have a few wrong ideas here. FWIW, I don't personally work for any O/G companies.

1) There is a specific process to collect an accurate sample from a well. It's not terribly complicated and anyone with enough sense to follow a basic cookbook recipe can do it, but unfortunately companies can't trust all homeowners to follow those directions, so understandably they hire contractors to do the sampling for them.

2) Samples are not analyzed by an "in-house" lab. Any sample intended to hold any weight in court will be analyzed by an independent lab certified for the compounds they report. To obtain their certification, labs have to empirically prove they meet analytical standards set by the state, and/or National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP, which has the same standards as the USEPA).

3) There is a very detailed discoverable paper trail built in to every single analysis an accredited lab performs. If a lab was caught tampering with results to favor a client they would lose their certification instantly, and with it ALL of the work for ALL clients, not just the O/G client, would cease immediately...lights-out, go home, call the bankruptcy lawyers, Go To Jail, Do Not Collect $200. I can't stress enough that the risks for laboratories are simply too high.

Anyone can independently sample their own water of course. Honestly, more homeowners with wells probably should be sampling their water, regardless of whether there's any drilling in your area.

Comment: Re:Gamechanger (Score 1) 514 514

It's not mentioned in the article, but even if initial prices are too high to attract most home-owners, it could still be an attractive option for businesses with solar systems, they would just have to scale it up for their purposes. Particularly since many electric power companies are not reimbursing private solar power producers as well as they used to.

Comment: Re:Can't wait to get this installed in my house (Score 1) 514 514

...I'd love to be able to charge up the battery supply for my house overnight at cheap rates, then run off the battery the rest of the time.

Batteries are not 100% efficient at storing and transmitting their charge, so you might not find much if any savings in your electric bill with overnight charging. If there is savings, then you have factor in how long it will take for that to give you a return on the investment and any long-term maintenance costs.

[We] use bad software and bad machines for the wrong things. -- R.W. Hamming