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America’s Fracking Boom Is Tilting the World Toward Climate Disaster – Mother Jones

America’s Fracking Boom Is Tilting the World Toward Climate Disaster – Mother Jones

America’s Fracking Boom Is Tilting the World Toward Climate Disaster – Mother Jones

A pump jack near Firestone, Colorado.David Zalubowski/AP

This story was first published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The fate of The vast amounts of oil and gas that are trapped under the shale, clay, and mud of American drilling fields will determine whether the world has a livable climate. The US is the other. the world’s largest extractor of oilThese fossil fuels are poised to be released in incredible volumes by the,

If fully realized, planned drilling projects on US soil and waters will release 140 billion metric tons of planet heating gases. An analysis shared with GuardianIt has been found.

The study will be published in Energy Policy journal this month, found emissions from these oil and gas “carbon bomb” projects were four times larger than all of the planet-heating gases Each year, over a million people are expelled from around the worldPutting the world on the right track for catastrophic climate change

Plans include conventional drilling and frracking that will reach the deep waters of Gulf of Mexico to the foothills of Front Range. Colorado and the mountainous Appalachian region. But the Permian Basin, a geological formation measuring 250 miles in length that lies beneath the mostly flat terrain of New Mexico or west Texas, is the heart of the Permian area.

One lobe of the formation, the Delaware basin, is expected to release 27.8 billion metric tonnes of carbon over the lifetime of planned drilling. The Midland basin will potentially release 16.6 billion tons.

It means the US, the center of the world’s addiction to oil and gas, will play an outsized role in the heatwaves, droughts and floods that will impact people around the planet.

“The Permian is where a lot of the shale upstream investment will go and companies are getting better and better at extracting oil from there,” said Sam Ori, the executive director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. “In an environment where it is profitable and where there is a market for oil, it is hard to think there won’t be drilling there for decades to come.”

Over the past two decades, unconventional methods like fracking have seen a rapid expansion in the US. At least 17.6 millions people live within a half mile of an active well. Further expansion of drilling sites will cause severe climate change and pose a threat to the health and well-being of communities and families living nearby.

Colorado is the country’s fifth-largest oil producer, with 90 percent coming from just one county: Weld, where the lack of federal regulation has led to the rapid spread of fracking wells in residential areas close to homes, schools, hospitals, and shopping malls.

“Wells are like trees here, it’s normal to see one on every block. We’re surrounded by them,” said Raquel Venegas, 34, a paralegal whose children attend Bella Romero school, where 11 fracking wells operate 210 meters from the playground.

Fracking is more hazardous than traditional drilling and has a higher risk of exposure to air pollutants and poor water quality. Numerous studies have suggested elevated rates of congenital heart defects, childhood leukemia, asthma, and premature births in neighborhoods close to fracking sites, Elderly people who live near or downwind of the ocean are more likely to die young..

Tens of thousands of oil-wells, which account for more that a third of US oil production are still present in the Permian basin. Production is expected to increase. ExxonMobil he said it will boost production from the Permian by 100,000 barrels a day this year, while Chevron is upping its output by 60,000 barrels.

The Permian will see a rise in productivity from new wells. Record setting high in 2022With next year’s forecast to be a landmark for the US as a whole—a record 12.6 million barrels of crude oil pumped each day across the country.

According to Rystad Energy, a record 904 drilling permits for companies operating within the Permian basin were issued in March. Typically, about 400-500 permits are approved each month but elevated oil prices and strong demand have caused an “unprecedented” and “extreme” increase, Rystad says.

“The Permian is one of the hottest hotspots in the world for energy production—and it’s only going to grow,” said Michael Webber, an energy policy expert at the University of Texas.

Colorado, a state in the west with stunning scenery of mountains, forests, canyons and other natural features, is the seventh-largest gas-producing state. In 2019, it accounted for almost two-fifths of the country’s coal-bed methane production.

Oil and gas have been extracted for more than a century from the Denver-Julesburg basin, which underlies the state’s largest population hubs on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. The fracking boom has led to an exponential increase in production over the past 20 years.

Colorado has been ravaged by floods and wildfires in recent years. Global heating is also causing drought and water shortages across the west. It also boasts some of the best views in the country. The worst air quality in the country, with emissions from oil and gas operations accounting for 30-40 percent of locally produced ozone along the Front Range—the eastern plains of the Rockies, where most of the state’s 52,000 active wells (Three quarters of them are fracking locations) are located.

Bella Romero school in Bella Romero, where a majority of Black and Brown children are from low-income families, had elevated levels of the carcinogenbenzene a few years back. These children often suffer from nosebleeds, irritated eyes and other respiratory symptoms.

Venegas said: “I worry about dying from climate disasters like fires and floods and get anxiety attacks if I think about what the wells are doing to my kids, it’s too scary.”

Fear and anxiety over unknown dangers, coupled with a feeling of impotence, are the main causes of fear and anxiety in the most heavily drilled areas. High levels of stress and reported mental problems, including depression, are common.

“The uncertainty and powerlessness people feel has a corrosive impact,” said Stephanie Malin, an associate professor of sociology at Colorado State University. “Plans to continue with fossil fuel extraction hangs on the industry’s pivot from climate denialism to the individual responsibility narrative that makes people feel hopeless and disempowered.”

A doctors’ group revealed this year how the industry had hidden the use of PFAS—a class of toxins also known as forever chemicals—in more than 12,000 wells by claiming them as trade secrets.

After years of campaigning by grassroots activists the regulations have been gradually tightened. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission made history by denying its first permit—temporarily halting the state’s largest producer’s proposal to build 33 wells close to 62 homes.

New legislation changed state regulators’ mission from promoting oil and gas development to protecting public health, safety, welfare and the environment, stipulates that wells must be set back 2,000ft from property lines. The company was invited to reapply, as exceptions are possible, which campaigners claim weakens the legislation.

“It’s been like the wild west. There’s so much money behind the industry, it’s impossible to win,” said Therese Gilbert, a middle-school teacher and activist who says she was frequently harassed during her eight-year crusade for better regulation. She now fears another boom.

“[The Russian war in Ukraine] is going to set climate change initiatives back under the cloak of patriotism when weaning ourselves off oil dictatorships and pivoting to renewables would be the patriotic choice,” she said.

The state’s much maligned roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions allows for oil and gas drilling to increase substantially by 2030.

A fracking operation near Rifle, Colorado.

Brennan Linsley/AP

And there are signs the state’s ties to oil and gas will continue long into the future: The Wattenberg field in Weld is the fourth-largest US oilfield and ninth-largest gas field based on proved reserves. There are approximately 3,000 unused permits for fracking. operators keep applying—Get it done!—more, as evolving technology allows companies to access shale oil and gas that were previously inaccessible, according to Kate Christensen from the nonprofit 350 Colorado.

Retirees David and Dee Runcorn* moved to a brand new neighborhood in Larimer county last year to be closer to their grandchildren and “live in harmony with natural wildlife”, as Developer promises. The couple, who chose this oasis after checking there were no wells nearby, enjoy a landscape view of the Rocky Mountains as well as nature trails in lakes and shrubland.

However, the developer announced plans for 26 wells to be installed on two separate pads located a few miles away from the house. “It doesn’t make sense, this is a short-term fix. There are viable alternatives to oil and gas if we want energy independence. It’s a no-brainer: we have to pivot to renewables,” David Runcorn said.

Until then, more fracking means more misery for communities close to the state’s largest oil refinery, which processes almost 100,000 barrels a day in a noxious industrial corridor.

This is a Mexican neighborhood that is close to the refinery. Has repeatedly violated pollution standards, the high school is one of the state’s worst performing. Lucy Molina, a resident activist whose teenage daughter suffers from debilitating migraines, attributes the poor attendance and education outcomes to noise, smell, water pollution, and other environmental factors. “This is a sacrifice zone where you see how climate change is directly related to environmental racism. The industry and politicians bank on our misery, they would frack our asses and our souls if they could.”

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association did not respond to repeated requests from the GuardianFor comment.

The US’s goliath output of oil is partly a consequence of the global oil shocks of the 1970s, when the country vowed to become more self-dependent for its fossil fuel supply. The United States is now a net exporter of oil, although this production has come at a huge cost to the climate—not only from the oil burned but also the A huge amount of greenhouse gases vented directly by wells. Even more greenhouse gases were released by wells in the Permian after the explosion in drilling. A spate of earthquakes in Texas.

Todd Staples is the president of Texas Oil and Gas. GasAssociation said that the intensity of methane emitted from the Permian Basin had declined even as production increased and that oil extracted from the region was more efficient than other countries. “No one in the world produces the oil and natural gas needed to power modern life in a more environmentally responsible way than American oil and natural gas producers,” he said. “Now is the time for America to develop a forward-looking energy plan that recognizes the importance of a strong domestic oil and natural gas industry that can provide the energy and security America and our allies need while advancing climate progress.”

There is There is significant political pressure to increase domestic drilling to respond to the Russia/Ukraine crisisThe war has caused oil prices worldwide to soar, and the US to ban Russian oil imports. If the high oil price persists, large oil companies might consider expanding their drilling. “We are wholly dependent upon oil and the crisis in Ukraine shows us that dependency is freighted with many costs, including national security,” Ori said. “We can’t drill our way out of this problem. It’s been a good reminder that we are the world’s top oil producer and that still has not insulated us from this crisis.

“We have an oil-based system, so to change that we need to reduce the demand for oil. Europe is moving forward with targets on clean energy, and hopefully this crisis will give a big push to that in the US too.”

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