Editorial: This can’t be right
A footnote on the radio news on July 30: North Dakota drillers are burning off $100 million of natural gas each month because they do not yet have the infrastructure to handle their booming production. It’s cheaper to burn it than to corral and refine it, the news stories said.
Ceres, a nonprofit organization that studies energy issues, said nearly one-third of gas extracted from shale fields in North Dakota is "flared" or burned off. News organizations explain that North Dakota’s energy boom is so recent that pipelines cannot be built fast enough to handle the huge output.
The burn-offs mean:
1. Loss of income to shareholders … estimated at $100 million a month, a figure that should induce those backing the energy companies to sit up, take notice and demand better results.
2. Emissions to the environment, possibly with long-term detrimental effects. It is said the flares are so huge they can be seen from outer space; and,
3. Waste … terrible waste at a time that America is supposed to be growing more energy-independent.
This can’t be right … but it is happening. In spite of our haste to develop new energy sources, it would be beneficial to slow down and use every drop that is extracted.
Fracking, the practice of mining natural gas trapped in shale pockets, is already a controversial process. While it has certainly assisted America in finding, both for its own use and for sale, great new supplies of energy, the procedure seems to be running ahead of its safety cops. Flare-offs are only the latest in a string of suspected problems which also include suspicions of groundwater contamination and artificial inducement of earthquakes.
In the meantime, we are pleased to note that auctions of offshore sites for wind production are coming soon in Virginia. The new way (fracking) will have to make space as well for the better way (renewable) at some point. It is good to start now.