With delusions of saving the planet from catastrophic warming, a Las Vegas assemblyman is offering up a futile gesture in the form of a bill to ban fracking in Nevada.
According to media accounts Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins has stated fracking causes earthquakes, contaminates water, pollutes the air and basically creates an eyesore.
His Assembly Bill 159 would amend state law by adding: “A person shall not engage in hydraulic fracturing in this State. As used in this section, ‘hydraulic fracturing’ means the process of pumping fluid into or under the surface of the ground to create fractures in the rock to facilitate the production or recovery of oil or gas.”
First, any earthquakes associated with fracking were not caused by fracking but by pumping fracking waste into injection wells, because the environmentalists object to leaving what is mostly water and sand on the surface.
As for contaminating groundwater even Obama’s EPA had to stretch beyond credulity to conclude there is a “chance” of pollution. In its report on the topic the EPA scientists said fracking “can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances,” but “the scientific evidence is insufficient to support estimates of the frequency of contamination.” They said the instances of contamination were small in comparison to the vast number of fracked wells across the nation. Almost nonexistent is more accurate.
Oil and natural gas wells, with or without fracking, produce oil and gas, the burning of which releases some carbon. We grant that, but fracking has actually cut the nation’s carbon output since natural gas burns cleaner than coal when used in power generation.
As for being an eyesore, modern fracking and drilling techniques eliminate the need to drill hundreds of wells in close proximity to hit small pockets of oil, such as can be seen in Bakersfield, Calif. Instead these pockets are tapped by drilling one well and then drilling out horizontally.
It would appear Watkins is under the misconception that fracking is some sort of recent untested endeavor.
The first fracking patent was issued in 1866. It used nitroglycerin explosions to fracture formations. The first commercial application of hydraulic fracking took place in 1949. In many oil and gas fields a vast majority of wells are fracked at one time or another, either initially or later to prolong the productive life of the well.
In the 1980s Texas oilman George Mitchell combined the techniques of fracking and horizontal drilling to develop the Barnett Shale formation in North Texas. This has resulted in a boom in natural gas production and a decline in oil prices, creating countless jobs and growing the economy.
In 2014 the Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry released Nevada’s 20-page revised rules on fracking that require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards. More than adequate precautions.
Though there have been a few fracked wells in the Elko vicinity in recent years, there reportedly are none ongoing at this time in Nevada.
But there is potential with the Chainman Shale formation, which lies largely in an 80- to 100-mile-plus radius around Duckwater — including almost all of White Pine County, major portions of Nye, Lincoln, Elko, Eureka and Lander counties, as well as parts of a couple of counties in Utah.
The formation is believed to be rich in oil, though most lies 2 to 5 miles underground, making drilling expensive when oil prices are fairly low — largely due to ample supplies created by fracking.
A fracking ban just might kill a number of potential jobs in Nevada and deprive the state economy and the state tax coffers of revenue. All for no discernible reason.
As if the fracking ban were not enough, another Las Vegas Assemblyman — Chris Brooks, who has worked in the solar panel installation business for years — has introduced legislation that would greatly increase the percentage of electric power sold in the state that must be generated by renewable energy sources — known as the renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
Current law requires 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, but Assembly Bill 206 would increase this to 50 percent by 2030 and fully 80 percent by 2040.
Such a standard would drive up power costs, kill jobs and increase the risk of brownouts and blackouts resulting from intermittent generation when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow — all for the sake of some nebulous superstition that reducing carbon output will save the planet from catastrophic warming.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.