Fracked Gas Is Not ‘Freedom Gas’ As Trump Administration Claims, But Failure Gas

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Above Photo: Food & Water Watch released a report Wednesday on the rise of fracking infrastructure in the U.S. (Graphic: Food & Water Watch)

“These projects aren’t just associated with health and safety risks: if even a fraction of them come to fruition, they will condemn the planet to a future of climate chaos.”

A first-of-its-kind report released Wednesday by Food & Water Watch details the more than 700 new U.S. facilities that have been recently built or proposed for development “to capitalize off of a glut of cheap fracked gas,” and the consequences for the planet and its inhabitants if these projects are allowed to continue.

“This new analysis paints a devastating picture of what our world will look like if fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure buildout aren’t halted soon.”
—Dr. Sandra Steingraber, biologist and activist

The report comes a week after top Energy Department officials, in a press release about natural gas exports, referred to fossil fuels as “molecules of U.S. freedom” and “freedom gas.” Climate campaigners characterized that widely ridiculed language as just another example of the Trump administration’s demonstrated commitment to planetary destruction.

“The Trump administration calls it ‘freedom gas,’ but what we’re really talking about here is failure gas,” Food & Water Watch’s Seth Gladstone told Common Dreams about the report. “Continuing to invest in fracked gas would represent a failure to address plastics pollution, a failure to prioritize human health and safety, and a failure to protect future generations from climate chaos.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has raised concerns about public health in nearby communities—numerous studies have tied fracking to frequent hospitalizations for genital, skin, and urinary conditions as well as increased rates of asthma, cancer, and motor vehicle fatalities. But the concerns don’t end there.

“These projects aren’t just associated with health and safety risks: if even a fraction of them come to fruition, they will condemn the planet to a future of climate chaos,” Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter warns in the foreward of the report.

Reflecting on what research on fracking has revealed in recent years, Hauter writes: “Natural gas, touted as a ‘bridge fuel’ to a clean energy future, was actually helping to tip the scales of climate stability past the point of no return. Fracked gas was found to be a climate killer.”

The group’s new report—entitled Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos (pdf)—focuses on three key industries that are both benefiting from and helping to drive the country’s fracking boom: “the petrochemical and plastics industries that use natural gas liquids as a key feedstock for their manufacturing; gas exporters building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to ship gas overseas; and natural gas-fired power plants.”

“This new analysis paints a devastating picture of what our world will look like if fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure buildout aren’t halted soon. But the damage to our bodies is already happening,” Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a biologist, environmental activist, and author, said in a statement. “It needs to stop now.”

Fracking Endgame breaks down how each of these industries forms “a symbiotically profitable business alliance with the fracking industry,” and how they are rapidly expanding, with hundreds of projects recently completed or in the pipeline:

  • Proliferation of plastics plants to capitalize on fracking: Industry experts project that the plastics industry will have added 28 million tons of plastic production between 2011 and 2020, and more than $202 billion is slated to be invested in 333 new facilities and expansions to take advantage of fracked gas, including 20 ethylene crackers to turn shale gas into feedstock for plastics manufacturing plants
  • Pushing natural gas exports to raise domestic prices: The industry and the Trump administration are promoting LNG exports to reduce the domestic gas supply and raise U.S. natural gas prices. In 2018, there were only three active LNG export facilities in the contiguous United States, but 22 more were either already being built or were approved for construction, and another 22 were pending federal review.
  • Wave of new fracked gas-fired power plants: The power industry has 364 new gas-fired power plants under development for 2018 to 2022, and gas deliveries to power plants rose 57 percent between 2006 (before the fracking boom) and 2017. The gas-fired generation capacity from plants added in 2017 and 2018 alone could power 24 million U.S. households, an expansion that is creating a power surplus in some areas.

U.S. exporters of fracked gas, the report points out, rely in part on political allies—both in Congress and the Trump administration.

Food & Water Watch was among the more than 200 groups that sounded the alarm last month over federal legislation—which has passed the House but still lacks Senate approval—that would provide billions of dollars in support for natural gas infrastructure projects and, critics warn, lock “both the United States and Europe into decades of continued fossil fuel dependence under the guise of national security.”

“The Trump administration calls it ‘freedom gas,’ but what we’re really talking about here is failure gas.”
—Seth Gladstone, Food & Water Watch

The report outlines how “the Trump administration has been pushing exports by trying to rush the approvals of new LNG export facilities,” from Energy Secretary Rick Perry—who once claimed “my job is to sell a lot of [LNG] around the world” and labeled opposition to fossil fuels “immoral”—to Gary Cohn, the president’s then-top economic adviser, who in 2017 demanded a new review of the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal, even though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had rejected the Oregon project the previous year.

“What we see in this report is the industry blueprint for ensuring decades more of fossil fuel dominance over our society. If it becomes realized, the endgame would be a scary, dangerous world of omnipresent plastic waste, expanding air and water pollution, unacceptable health impacts and irreversible climate chaos,” Hauter said in a statement. “The solution is simple: We must cut off this filthy production stream at its source, by banning fracking and halting the runaway buildout of fracked gas infrastructure that is spreading like a toxic web all over the country.”

  • Pat moore

    Agree completely with this conclusion.
    We are not lemmings. I hope.

  • Neville

    Our problem for our continued existence on this planet is plastic pollution

  • mwildfire

    Since I live in western WV, above the Marcellus and Utica shales–I see all this up close, and am engaged in trying to block these projects. Yes, “freedom gas” sounds inane–but it’s quite clear to me why they’ve come up with this asinine trope. They are in a position of needing to justify pipelines that ram through people’s backyards, seized by eminent domain for “the public good”–and domestic ratepayers are forced to pay for every cent of the costs and 14 or 15% guaranteed profit on top of that–so that the gas, not actually needed domestically–can be sent overseas (after passing through an export station inevitably bitterly opposed by the locals whose health and safety are threatened) in search of higher prices. Hell of a deal to sell the public: you have to pay more for the gas you use, to pay for this pipeline we’re endangering people and land and water with, so that gas companies can try to find higher profits (because the frackers are running in the red–see the DeSmog Blog posts in this). So the spin they came up with is that they are graciously offering Europeans American gas so they don’t “have to” buy gas from the Red Menace Russkies or the Muslim countries. The new demonization of Russia likely has the same source–competition for markets, and a US government that is not separate from megacorporations. People at the top of government take as their job to use the public dime to work on behalf of weapons companies, gas and oil companies, insurance companies (trying to take down the NHS in England, for example, so the Brits can have the horrible overpriced, chaotic system we have. And it doesn’t matter whether the Demublicans or Republicrats are in power, they work for the same companies.

  • earthcaretaker

    It needs to be called “freedom to die gas”.

  • stephenverchinski

    Check out “Fixing to Die Rag” adapted by Nellie McKay. Word up. She has little good to say about Blue since 2016.

  • stephenverchinski

    Proverbial lemmings. See Alaska Fish and Game. Disney faked that scene too.

    Its like radiation exposure gets you superpowers (Superman, Hulk, Spiderman etc. Even superpowered females with no lupus, no cancers, no birth defects attributable to fallout that can only end in termination of pregnancy.)

    It really makes you sick and possibly very dead.