Category Archives: Environmental Solutions

Environmental Solutions focus on helping the emvironment.

Razors, Shaving, and Pollution

History of shaving in America

People have shaved for thousands of years, initially using items such as rock, shell and other similar sharpened crude devices. These were eventually replaced by upgraded versions until eventually the straight razor, the electric razor and the disposable safety razor were invented. The current iteration of disposable safety razors with replaceable blades began with Gillette in 1901 when they created the idea was that a smaller more compact blade was cheaper to produce and thus it could then be disposable. There were likely safety and economic benefits from this change. At some point the head was made to easily detach form the handle allowing for cheaper disposal. In addition during the World War there was fear that soldiers needed to be prepared to wear gas masks. This resulted in disposable razors being issued to service men who were ordered to shave daily. This resulted in a steep rise in the popularity of shaving and ingrained the practice into a whole generation of people. Some data on statistics can be found at:http://www.statisticbrain.com/shaving-statistics/.

In order to remain on task I will not be talking about the monetary cost of shaving in much detail but if you shave you know that it costs money…sometimes quite a bit of money. Shaving cream for instance can cost $5 – $70 per bottle and blades (especially disposable blades) can be quite expensive. Electric razors are expensive and a good old straight razor can cost more than a high end electric razor and requires a lot of maintenance and it can cut you.

The current information on shaving

Based on the data linked above I calculated that women on average waste 2 hours and 10 minutes a month shaving and 1,402 hours of their lives shaving. At a $10 per hour (a dismal salary to live on in the United States) a woman could spend this time to earn an extra $14,000 and they pay $10,000 for this lost salary, this is a total economic impact of $24,000 in the red to the household budget (assuming only one woman in the house) over the life of the woman. Regarding men I couldn’t find cost or time information but 1.3 billion men using a razor to shave and 75% of men shaving daily is a lot of time and money that could be better used.

Environmental Concerns

So I guess I’m a little less concerned about how other people spend their money and their time…If the time and monetary costs of shaving provide you with a benefit as an individual then I won’t begrudge you on those aspects. I am a firm believer that individuals should be allowed to do what they wish and spend their money how they wish provided it doesn’t harm other people. Unfortunately, I think shaving falls into this category of harming other people from an environmental perspective especially when looking at the electric and disposable razor markets. These two kinds of razors are manufactured from metal and plastic both of these processes require energy input and likely this energy input comes from some form of fossil fuel burning. This produces carbon dioxide emissions which may in the near future be detrimental to our health as a species and the health of other species on the planet.

An additional concern is that at the end of the life of these products is likely the landfill and if we are lucky recycling centers. In the landfill these plastics might remain for very long periods of time and while a disposable razor may not be that large the cumulative effect of 1.3 billion men shaving daily creates a fairly sizable impact on the waste system. If we are lucky and the plastics and metals from these products makes it to a recycle center or other proper disposal facility then at least the biohazard (blood that may remain on the blade) is removed and the plastic and sharp metals are removed from the waste stream. This is the preferable end for these devices but even recycling of the plastics and metals is energy intensive (frequently this energy creates carbon emissions) and is still not great for the environment.

Proposal

I would like to propose that all men and women cease the practice of shaving (except with straight razors). The preferred option would actually be for men to wear beards and for women to have hairy legs and armpits. We are designed to have hair it provides many functions and to create a false image of beauty by encouraging as a society the unnatural practice of shaving as the societal norm is not only unnatural and a skewed reality but it is also harming the environment for generations to come (and the present generations), and financially costing households money which could be spent on other things (such as improving clean water and safe food access to others). Finally it wastes time that could be spent enjoying life, enjoying time with your family, earning more money or making a difference in society and the world. The act of shaving is robbing us dry and we continue to promote it to the extent that even today many businesses has policies which deter unshaven looks.

Harming the Environment and Wasting Tax Dollars!

Yesterday, I went hiking with my three boys (8, 5, 1). Since we had the youngest with us we took the Bob stroller and hit it off into the trails around then local highschool. This is the same area where we found Moss Man last fall. I had thought about writing a post about Moss Man but perhaps I’ll just share the video.

No, we didn’t make said Moss Man and we don’t know who did. We just walked through the woods and found him.

 

Anyways, Moss Man is on the shorter loop (a mile to a mile and a half) which is the route we usually take (the kids do better on shorter hikes). Yesterday I let the boys pick which route we would take and they picked the long loop (about 3-5 miles).  These loops are around the highschool for the Town of Signal Mountain. The trails are located on what’s called Shackleford Ridge and they link in to the Cumberland trail system which links into the Appalachian trail. So, a few wrong turns and you’re on your way from Tennessee to Canada (after 6 months of living on the trail…).

The cool thing about these particular loops that we hike on (at least if you have kids) is that they go around the highschool, middle school, elementary school and the associated sports facilities (4 soccer fields, 3 baseball fields, and two football fields) plus the student and staff parking.  This is great if you’re hiking with kids and may possibly need to find a shortcut back to civilization if a child gets exhausted and wants to call it quits.

Surprise, surprise, the 5 year old for exhausted and on this particular hike we were on the opposite end on the trail system. We found a quick exit to the road and then cut across the baseball fields, through the student parking then the staff parking. Finally, we had to go around the school building itself. There are two ways to go the short way (through grass) or the long way (on the road around the school).

You guessed it we took the grass by this time it is about 5:30 PM and school has been out for about 2 hours. The grass is beautifully landscaped and we turned a corner and low and behold there is a ground level window….wide open. My first thought, probably from 10 years in law enforcement, was wow that’s not very secure…instantly I thought of people climbing in the window and either vandalizing the place or stealing whatever they could grab.

Now, I’ve mentioned in other posts that I have recently completed a M.S. in Environmental Science and as a result my kids and I frequently talk about environmental topics. My oldest son’s first thought (and my second thought) was wow that’s wasting a lot of electricity. This lights appeared to be off in the classroom and the window wide open. We looked around the building a bit more and located two additional windows (these on the second floor). That were also connected to apparently empty classrooms and wide open.

The bottom line is that teachers should be role models for ideal behavior for kids. They should be concerned about safe practices that secure the building and they should do environmentally sound in classroom practices. I hope this was just an isolated incident at my local school and not a national environmental plague and an unnexessary waste of tax dollars. We hike frequently at this location so I plan to pay more careful attention in the future. Hopefully this was an isolated incident but if not I will likely we writing a letter to the board of education. I did not manage to get photos of this event but I will try to remember to next time (if there is a next time).

Martian Combination Plant

A while back I posted about working on my thesis for my M.S. in Environmental Science. Now is the time where I am looking for a job. Let’s go back to the beginning of this website. Initially the goal was to do daily posts of useful information with weekly posts of big business environmental solutions. Some of these included Starbucks coffee cups and Drive Through windows. One that I held off on I am going to share today since I am using it in a cover letter for an application to SpaceX.

Obviously I have no idea how this letter will impact my application (I hope I get the job, well any job at SpaceX would be freaking cool! I mean who wouldn’t want to be a part of the team that potentially makes humans a multi-planet species). 

Oh yeah, SpaceX, here is the diagram I wanted to share with you…I made it a few months back and intended to write about it then decided not too. However your attachments section on the application wouldn’t accept images, so I figured I would go ahead and share with everyone. Condensation House 3

 

Also, to be fair to my readers, here is a copy of the cover letter which contains an explanation of the diagram.

I like to think of myself as an innovative and creative thinker. I am often taking ideas from vastly different fields and combining them to create solutions to problems. One such idea that I put together and had hoped that it could be used to help third world coastal communities is a solar powered water purifying and electric generating combo plant (which actually might be useful for martian colonization).

 

The idea relys on combining several simple ideas together:

 

First, the idea that the waste of one process can be used in another process (recycling).

 

Second, that some carbon and gold based nanoparticles can efficiently create steam (even in ice water) just utilizing sunlight.

 

Third, there are situations where sunlight is an underutilized resource and there exists a water and/or electric shortage. Some places might be Coastal Africa, an Ice Sheet in Antarctica, Dubai, Japan, California, Florida….the fact is as technology increases more people are on the power grid and this means that more power generation is always useful. As the population increases the supply of fresh water per capita decreases. Sunlight is plentiful it is emitted in every direction from the sun and will continue to be for another 5 billion years.

 

So this idea works on these existing ideas in a (hopefully) new approach. Basically, a greenhouse is built (it can be any size). This greenhouse contains a pool. The pool contains water (salt water in the case of coastal third world earth). Inside the water is dissolved nano particles and the roof of the glass house is a solar condenser(maybe a Fresnel lens). This concentrates the beam on a smaller area allowing for vigorous steam creation. This steam is funneled into a pipe, through a turbine generating electricity and finally sent into a condenser coil underground (possibly at a higher elevation to create a kind of uphill water storage area and function as both a storage for the distilled water and an electrical battery for times when sunlight is not available (similar to Raccoon Mountain, in Tennessee).

 

This is great (with development) for remote locations with poor access to modern infrastructure. For SpaceX I feel this has even greater potential a system such a this on the mars project could generate water, electricity, allow separation of hydrogen (fuel) and oxygen (for breathing), and the glass house (greenhouse) could be outfitted with hydroponics systems to capture and utilize any non captured solar energy. Additionally as a result of the atmospheric composition of Mars being thinner than Earth’s it is possible that more solar energy is able to penetrate to be utilized for the production of pure distilled water and electricity, and a backup battery storage system allowing for overnight power as needed.

 

Here’s a link to a copy of this letter and a basic diagram of the proposed system:

 

I know this job posting is for an environmental technician and the job description doesn’t exactly ask for innovation of solutions for space colonization…That’s OK, I will do whatever I can to help humanity (for SpaceX would be really cool) and if it is as simple as ensuring that other professionals are safe and able to solve these problems I am on board. I would love a foot in the door and an opportunity to be on a team changing the world.

 

Sincerely,
J. Miles Jorgensen

P.S. Thanks for reading this far and I hope the rest of the applications you read can put a smile on your face.

Well that’s the letter…I hope it plus a resume and a copy of my thesis is enough to get me in the door to work at one of the coolest companies.

Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) 1 of 7

Last spring I did a pretty thorough look into fracking so here a copy. Necessarily due to the length it is broken into multiple parts. Here are the links for all parts: Fracking: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Citations.

The $65,000,000,000,000 Secret Debate

Currently, a barrel of oil costs $99.74 and 1000 cubic feet of natural gas is priced on the commodities markets at $4.37. The United States Energy Information Administration (U.S. EIA) estimated in their most recent report that there are about 7,299 trillion cubic feet of shale gas and 345 billion barrels of shale/tight oil worldwide. If the math is calculated using the aforementioned numbers, then there is approximately $31,896,630,000,000 of natural gas and $34,410,300,000,000 of shale / tight oil for a combined value of over $65 trillion U.S. dollars. The only way currently to economically obtain this energy source is through a process called fracking.

Fracking is a controversial process. There is a huge international debate going on between private corporations (oil companies), public health and environmental groups and politicians (The three P’s). Hopefully, after reading this, it will be quite clear what the debate is about and the benefits and risks associated with fracking. A debate of this magnitude doesn’t seem very secret at initial observation for people involved in one of the three P’s. However, what seems a fairly obvious large debate started with the very first fracking well in 1947. Just recently (2009-2010) the debate became something that the general public has become aware exists. This was discovered as part of an informal survey of my coworkers. About 40 people were sent an email asking a fairly simple question. “Have you heard about ‘fracking’ and if so provide a brief description telling what you know about fracking (just 2-3 sentences).” The 40 people consisted of individuals aged 18-65, all individuals had obtained at least a high school diploma, some had bachelor’s degrees, other were retired military. Approximately 60-70% are female and some have kids and or spouses but others do not. Only a handful of people responded and as such, this should not be considered a definitive survey. Even though it did provide somewhat surprising results.

Responses:

1) Fracking is a way of drilling sideways

2) It is referring to drilling and it is also a slang term though I’ve only heard it used as slang.

3) Saw on Dallas where John Ross was wanting to frack Southfork

4) It is a slang term, He fracked him.

5) Practice of drilling into shale oil fields, directing microwave energy to release the crude oil and natural gas from shale. Currently it is used in North Dakota and is responsible for their oil boom. It is as safe as any other drilling method for extracting crude oil. It’s wide spread use in states like PA and NY would replace all our imported crude for at least 50 years. Also fracking is a colorful metaphor on the Battlestar Galatica series.

What seemed to be common knowledge, to a graduate student working on a Masters in Environmental Science degree, was oddly not very common. Let’s examine the responses a little more thoroughly:

  • Drilling sideways is termed horizontal drilling, it often occurs concurrently with fracking but it is different.
  • Well again, it is related to drilling but not exactly correct, and it’s a slang term? After further examination (urbandictionary.com) it was found-that indeed there was slang use for the term. One use was vulgar (and apparently originated in the TV show Battlestar Galactica in 1978) and can logically be deduced with some thought (hint: it was a clever way of censoring for TV), there were several other uses of the term as well:
  1. To mess up or destroy an electronic device while doing hardware or cosmetic modifications.
  2. Not a successful hack or crack.
  3. Bad at soldering.
  • This is a reference to a quote that occurred in the popular TV series Dallas where a character (John Ross) vowed to Frack Southfork (a city) dry. (Season 3, Episode 4) and seems to be a legit reference to the oil industry version of fracking.
  • Again, apparently this is true
  • This response has been saved for last, The first four in the list, while not exactly accurate did not refer to the intended meaning, they were fairly harmless responses. This fifth response was an attempt to explain fracking as best the person was able. It reads like a technical detailed description of fracking. However, it’s not accurate at all. These responses demonstrate a misinformation among the public and confusion of the topic.
  • There was a sixth person who responded, though their definition was largely accurate though not extremely detailed.

The take away message from this informal survey  is that the general knowledge on this topic is very limited. The people involved in the debate need to be very careful when talking with people outside the debate to make sure they have an accurate understanding of the topic. This revelation means that to understand the secret debate first it is essential to understand the process of fracking.

Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) 1-7 Citations

Last spring I did a pretty thorough look into fracking so here a copy. Necessarily due to the length it is broken into multiple parts. Here are the links for all parts: Fracking: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Citations.

Works Cited:

United States. President (2009-: Obama), & Obama, B. (2011). Blueprint for a secure energy future. White House.

PHILLIPS, W. J. (1972). Hydraulic fracturing and mineralization. Journal of the Geological Society, 128(4), 337-359.

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=14431 – World Shale Map image

(November 13, 2012 Tuesday ). US to be world’s top energy producer. Financial Times (London, England), Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic

http://www.eia.gov/analysis/studies/worldshalegas/

http://www.adv-res.com/

United States, Energy Information Administration, (June 13,2013) Technically Re coverable Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources: An Assessment of 137 Shale Formations in 41 Countries Outside the United States. (retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/analysis/studies/worldshalegas/pdf/fullreport.pdf)

FracFocus Wells, Accessed on: April 2, 2014, layers from EPA, Skytruth, EIA, USGS and ESRI [http://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=ad67d1d697104a4bbc1c238319f03eeb].

PACWA’s List of the Harmed, Accessed on: April 2, 2014, layers from EPA and PACWA’s list of the harmed (5-16-2013), [http://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=fd688b59c2da49799daf78dcdf101033&webmap=47d41eed28a7410fafc77b07bddd1ce7].

Myers, T. (2012). Potential contaminant pathways from hydraulically fractured shale to aquifers. Groundwater, 50(6), 872-882.

http://cdn.ipsnews.net/Library/2013/08/frackingmap700-629×444.jpg   Ground water/Shale overlay map.

Joshi, S. D. (1988). Augmentation of Well Productivity With Slant and Horizontal Wells (includes associated papers 24547 and 25308). Journal of Petroleum Technology, 40(06), 729-739.

Hubbert, M. K., & Willis, D. G. (1972). Mechanics of hydraulic fracturing.

Howarth, R. W., Ingraffea, A., & Engelder, T. (2011). Natural gas: Should fracking stop?. Nature, 477(7364), 271-275.

Davies, A. (2012). 4.0 Earthquake Caused by Fracking in Ohio Was Felt in Toronto. TreeHugger.

CETT, N. (2010). Learning how to not make your own earthquakes. Science, 25, 1624.

Engelder, T., Howarth, R. W., & Ingraffea, A. (2011). Should fracking stop? Extracting gas from shale increases the availability of this resource, but the health and environmental risks may be too high. Nature, 477(7364), 271+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA267976375&v=2.1&u=tel_a_utc&it=r&p=HRCA&sw=w&asid=597dde10d5da7dd796879848be56683d

Osborn, S. G., Vengosh, A., Warner, N. R., & Jackson, R. B. (January 01, 2011). Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108, 20, 8172-6.

Sandman, P. M., Rubin, D. M., & Sachsman, D. B. (1972). Media: An introductory analysis of American mass communications. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Boudet, H., Clarke, C., Bugden, D., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2014). “Fracking” controversy and communication: Using national survey data to understand public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing. Energy Policy, 65, 57-67.

Leaf v. EPA, 118 F.3d 1467 (11th Cir. 1997).

Cronkhite, L., Jollie, J., Harrigan-Farrelly, J., & Kobelski, B. (2004). EPA Update/Fluids Used in the Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Do Not Affect Underground Sources of Drinking Water. Groundwater Monitoring & Remediation, 24(3), 51-52.

 

Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) 7 of 7

Last spring I did a pretty thorough look into fracking so here a copy. Necessarily due to the length it is broken into multiple parts. Here are the links for all parts: Fracking: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Citations.

Conclusion:

This paper describes information, history, small surveys, more sufficient research and some independent statistical analysis. The bigger question: What does the bigger picture look like? Perhaps it is best to step back and reexamine the three P’s. Private corporations, especially oil companies, are interested in the economics of the $65,000,000,000,000 debate. Oil companies are well positioned to earn huge profits from the presumed fracking boom. The actual $65 trillion is the wholesale value of oil and gas assets. Once taxed and resold, the economic influence of fuel fracking is magnified. Further, when the money earned from fracking is paid to investors and employees, the economic influence expands to the international economy. Quantifying this effect further down is more difficult and relies on various assumptions.

Opposite private industry sit health and environment groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals. The concern they share is that there is unknown potential to hurt people and/or the environment. Chemicals are introduced to the environment via fracking with possible long-term unknown risks We could be causing much more harm than we are aware, a valid concern since the information really didn’t receive major attention publically until recently. Currently, a person can use their computer and perform a search for “fracking water on fire” and watch videos of people lighting their well water on fire due to methane contamination. There have been incidents of trucks spilling while transporting frackwater. The number of ‘alleged’ incidents where harm has been caused by fracking are quite numerous. It would be folly to not consider them when examining the entire picture of fracking.

Finally, there are the politicians; This group is more difficult to define. They come from different backgrounds and have different motives to satisfy their constituents. They are also the ones who make the final decisions. But, they answer to the public. Historically, this group in bipartisan fashion has supported, or at least not opposed, fracking. Though they have, in 2010, ordered a reexamination of the subject. This is likely the result of the increased public prevalence of fracking. In a sense the politicians are finally starting to feel the public backlash for perceived lax regulation without adequate science.

Jumbled inside the triangle of the three p’s is the general public, the people who would enjoy high paying jobs and other benefits. These same people are the shareholders of oil companies. Every aspect from the foundation of the economy to the CEO’s of oil companies will feel at least a small impact from petroleum from fracking:  bread prices, heating cost (for natural gas) or any other consumable, the same people who will carry the weight of the environmental or health costs. The same people who will lose their farms if they are contaminated by an accident. What about the next Ohio earthquake it could pass 8.0 on the Richter scale causing vast damages to life and property. Working Americans elect the politicians, and currently these people are uninformed about the topic of fracking (Boudet et al, 2014).

Once informed; will the health and environmental lobby win or will private industry win? It is probably best to not look at it as winners and losers. Rather, the effort should be to make the best decision with everyone’s interests in mind. The key is public education. Whoever can educate the public correctly and first, giving them the opportunity to instill their beliefs will allow one group or the other to gain an advantage in the debate. An adequately regulated policy that allows companies to profitably access these resources while being stringent enough to protect the health of everyone involved is best for all. The best interests of everyone is to approach this conservatively in a way that prevents harm to people and the environment.

Some specific improvements that each of the three P’s can use to improve:

Private Industry:

Fracking companies need to be more transparent, especially concerning the chemical makeup of their slurries. They could also proceed a little more conservatively and help financially fund the research as a good faith effort to help determine where safety improvements can be implemented. Finally, private industry could take a pro-regulation stance instead of lobbying for exemptions that only serve to raise the suspicions of the public.

Public Health and Environmental Organizations:

These organizations exist to protect our health and our environment. However, these groups would do well to remember that private companies are in the business of making money and providing resources or a product. Telling a company that just spent hundreds of millions that they need to shut it down will be ill received. Perhaps they could be more open to discussing specific process improvements to make fracking safer and more efficient while improving health and safety protections.

Politicians:

Politicians are stuck between the two factions. In the past they have been able to let the other segments of the three P’s and make whatever decision they chose. However, now that public awareness is increasing it will become more and more important that keep their constituents best interests, and what the constituents think are their best interests, in mind.

There is a hidden fourth party. The media which can participate and be beneficial in this process and in fact seem to be doing just that. The increase in publications seems to confirm media and other literary outlets are well aligned with public interest as indicated by Google Trends.

In conclusion this is not a simple problem where one side is right and the other side is wrong. There is no simple test for the best course of action. Rather, it is a problem of maximizing the gain while minimizing the damage to achieve the maximum combined results for the long term. This will require concessions from each of the three P’s. Currently no side seems willing to concede enough ground to make a substantial difference. Hopefully, the increasing public interest will push the three P’s into a more cohesive relationship where real steps can be made in the best direction. The soon-to-be-released EPA study ordered by congress in 2010, could be the turning point in this debate which pushes everyone towards a safe and prosperous future.

Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) 6 of 7

Last spring I did a pretty thorough look into fracking so here a copy. Necessarily due to the length it is broken into multiple parts. Here are the links for all parts: Fracking: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Citations.

Methods & Results II

A third small study was conducted using the Google Trends program (url: http://www.google.com/trends/ ). Fracking keywords (see Methods & Results I for the list) as described above were submitted through the Trends Program to examine the types of internet queries conducted in the Google search engine. All of these queries except “Fracking” returned poor or no results, due to low search volume. For this reason, only the “Fracking” trends information was examined, due to the other 13 searches having insufficient data to draw conclusions other than, “People are not querying these terms in the Google search engine very frequently.”

Examining the “Fracking” set for interest over time, it was observed that prior to 2010 there was barely anyone searching for “Fracking”, which agrees with the results from the database analysis presented earlier in this paper. The trends software identified 11 significant peaks where the number of people querying “Fracking” increased significantly, and identified the following article list as the reasons for those peaks:

  • CBS – September 13, 2010 – Natural Gas “Fracking” Debate Draws Hundreds
  • The Washington Times – April 12, 2011 – Fracking shale for gas brings wealth, concerns
  • The Wall Street Journal – August 11, 2011 – Gov’t panel: Fracking chemicals should be revealed
  • Fox News – November 02, 2011 – English Tremors Blamed on Shale ‘Fracking’
  • The Raw Story – January 3, 2012 – Quakes halt Ohio ‘fracking’ waste water well
  • Reuters – May 4, 2012 – U.S. proposes new rules for fracking on federal lands
  • Spiegel Online – February 25, 2013 – Gas production: Altmaier and Rösler agree on fracking law
  • Canadian Business – May 5, 2013 – In S. Illinois, residents debate economic lure of ‘fracking,’ preserving area’s rugged beauty
  • Yahoo! News – August 19, 2013 – UK lawmaker arrested at anti-fracking protest
  • USA Today – October 19, 2013 – Calif. finds more instances of offshore fracking
  • BBC News – January 13, 2014 – Cameron urges fracking opponents to ‘get on board’

The trends tool also analyzed what countries internationally had the most users querying fracking:

Trends Charts A & B) For both charts 100 score is given to the country/city with the most searches, then other scores are converted to a percent of that score e.x. in the countries chart the United States had 97% of the search volume that South Africa did. Note: The third county is United Kingdom. Full data can be found in the appendix section.
Trends Charts A & B) For both charts 100 score is given to the country/city with the most searches, then other scores are converted to a percent of that score e.x. in the countries chart the United States had 97% of the search volume that South Africa did. Note: The third county is United Kingdom. Full data can be found in the appendix section.

Trends also identified the top 10 queries containing the word “Fracking”:

  • What is fracking – 1.00
  • Fracking gas – .95
  • Oil fracking – .60
  • Water fracking – .55
  • Fracking shale – .40
  • Shale – .40
  • Fracking definition – .40
  • Fracking natural gas – .35
  • Hydraulic fracking – .25
  • Fracking uk – .25

This list contains both “what is fracking” and “fracking definition”, indicating once again that most people who search the internet for fracking do not have a clear understanding of fracking. Considered in conjunction with the previously discussed information and the trends charts, it becomes even more apparent that if someone were survey the public outside of South Africa and the United States, the $65 trillion secret debate becomes even more secret. An additional comparison that was made is a correlation check between the “Internet Searches by Country”/”Internet Searches by City” data sets and the populations of said countries/cities to determine if population is a reasonable explanation for the observed differences. Data were input to an excel spreadsheet, scatterplots were created using the standard gui scatter plot excel function. Linear regression trend lines were created and  values were determined. Next, values were converted to Pearson’s correlation coefficient values (r) by taking the square root of . Positive or negative values were determined based on the trend line equations. The highlights can be examined in the images and text boxes below and full data can be found in the appendix.

This scatterplot shows a strong negative correlation between the population of the city and how many people conduct Google searches in those cities. This mean that according to this data the smaller the city population the more Google searches the citizens will conduct including the word “Fracking”. Clearly we can assume that city size is not the cause of increased searches.  r = -0.503
This scatterplot shows a strong negative correlation between the population of the city and how many people conduct Google searches in those cities. This mean that according to this data the smaller the city population the more Google searches the citizens will conduct including the word “Fracking”. Clearly we can assume that city size is not the cause of increased searches.
r = -0.503
This scatterplot has a negligible correlation the Pearson’s correlation coefficient, r, is 0.124. The full data however, if the outlier is kept ,had a strong positive correlation (r=0.540). Below are various combinations of outliers. Bolded are the statistically removed outliers. Please see the appendix for outlier calculations (q1-1.5 (IQR), q3+1.5(IQR)).
This scatterplot has a negligible correlation the Pearson’s correlation coefficient, r, is 0.124. The full data however, if the outlier is kept ,had a strong positive correlation (r=0.540). Below are various combinations of outliers. Bolded are the statistically removed outliers. Please see the appendix for outlier calculations (q1-1.5 (IQR), q3+1.5(IQR)).
In bold, the statistically recommended outliers have been removed and data values provided. The remaining analyses are included for comparison based on visual observations of the full data set. In both groups, the removal of outliers did in fact significantly change the outcome.
In bold, the statistically recommended outliers have been removed and data values provided. The remaining analyses are included for comparison based on visual observations of the full data set. In both groups, the removal of outliers did in fact significantly change the outcome.

 

 

 

Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) 5 of 7

Last spring I did a pretty thorough look into fracking so here a copy. Necessarily due to the length it is broken into multiple parts. Here are the links for all parts: Fracking: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Citations.

U.S. Policy

Earlier it was mentioned that the first instance of fracking occurred in 1947. From 1947 to 1997 fracking remained under the radar; due to there not being a large enough concern or because fracking was not performed in as quite as risky a manner. Before 1997, the EPA asserted that they did not have legal jurisdiction over fracking. This was contested by Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation, INC. (LEAF), in 1997 in the court case LEAF v EPA in the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

Summary of Leaf v. EPA, 118 F.3d 1467 (11th Cir. 1997):

LEAF filed a petition to be heard in the USCA 11’th Circuit because they disagreed with EPA’s denial of withdrawal of approval of Alabama’s underground injection control (UIC) program. The Eleventh Circuit Court decided to hear the case because they felt that the EPA was interpreting the definition of “underground injection” differently than the statutory definition. They found the statutory definition of underground injection to be “the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection” 42 U.S.C § 300h(d)1. The court also considered the five definitions of wells in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA):

Class 1: “wells used to dispose of hazardous, industrial, or municipal wastes beneath underground sources of drinking water. 40 C.F.R. § 144.6(a)”

Class 2: “”[w]ells which inject fluids: (1) [w]hich are brought to the surface in connection with … conventional oil or natural gas production …; (2) [f]or enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas; and (3) [f]or storage of hydrocarbons.” Id. § 144.6(b).”

Class 3: “wells which inject for extraction of minerals”

Class 4: “wells used to dispose of hazardous or radioactive wastes into or above underground sources of drinking water. Id. § 144.6(c) and (d).”

Class 5: “”[i]njection wells not included in Classes I, II, III, or IV.” Id. § 144.6(e).”

The EPA had previously given the state of Alabama the authority to run their own UIC program, which was officially done in two parts, the first in 1982 and the second in 1983. LEAF basically wanted EPA to reclaim that authority because they felt that the state of Alabama was negligent in their administration of the SDWA regulation for UIC. They had testimony submitted by the State Oil and Gas Board defining:

“”Hydraulic fracturing” involves the injection of fluids and a propping agent (usually sand) into a coal bed”

Standing was established by the court to justify hearing the case. After a long analysis of the evidence and precedent Birch in his majority opinion concluded:

LEAF petitioned EPA to initiate proceedings for the withdrawal of Alabama’s UIC program because Alabama does not regulate hydraulic fracturing associated with methane gas production. EPA denied the petition on the ground that hydraulic fracturing does not fall within the regulatory definition of “underground injection.” Because we find that EPA’s interpretation of its regulations is inconsistent with the statute, we GRANT the petition for review and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

In short, the court indicated to the EPA that yes the SDWA does indeed require the EPA to regulate fracking if it poses an environmental hazard.

Due to the courts telling the EPA that fracking was indeed their responsibility to regulate the EPA designed a study to determine if fracking creates a risk that requires regulation. This study began in 1999 and was published in 2004, with a conclusion that fracking poses little to no threat (Cronkhite et al, 2004). A year after the EPA released these results Congress passed and George Bush signed into law the Energy Policy Act.

The Energy Policy Act was the ‘nail in the coffin’ for environmentalists seeking to prevent fracking. It modified the definition of “Underground Injection” in the SDWA:

SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING.
Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION.—The term ‘underground injection’—
‘‘(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
‘‘(B) EXCLUDES
‘‘(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
‘‘(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’

Please take note that the wording change “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents” almost exactly matches the material submitted during LEAF v EPA to define hydraulic fracturing: “involves the injection of fluids and a propping agent”. It appears from this comparison that this particular change was inserted directly to undermine the 11’th circuit court telling the EPA that they were obligated to regulate fracking if it posed a risk. This one change effectively gave the oil industry a free pass in regards to the SDWA. The Energy Policy Act did not stop at changing the SDWA. It also modified the Clean Water Act (CWA):

The term “pollutant” means dredged spoil, solid waste, incinerator residue, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials, heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water. This term does not mean (A) “sewage from vessels” within the meaning of section 312 of this Act; or (B) water, gas, or other material which is injected into a well to facilitate production of oil or gas, or water derived in association with oil or gas production and disposed of in a well, if the well used either to facilitate production or for disposal purposes is approved by authority of the State in which the well is located, and if such State determines that such injection or disposal will not result in the degradation of ground or surface water resources.”

            Earlier when describing the process of fracking it was discussed that 50,000 lbs of chemicals per well are injected into the well with about 5 million gallons of water (chemical waste). Fossil fuels are degraded organic matter derived from past living organisms. Also mentioned is that frackwater pumped out of the ground and stored in pits could bring radioactively decaying material and heavy metals to the surface. The propping agent – sand – is put into the water when injected into the ground. Further when the millions of gallons of water resource per well (which is fortunately abundant by observation of the oceans) is injected into the ground to dispose of the frackwater waste. Then it is removed as a surface resource indefinitely. All of these actions could potentially qualify fracking for regulation under the CWA, especially if frackwater could be shown to contaminate underground aquifers. However, once again, Congress and the President established a blanket exclusion which was given to the fracking industry suggesting that they may frack without oversight.

Moving to more recent times Barack Obama was elected as president, and a year later he released his energy plan, titled “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” (Obama, 2009). August 4, 2011, arrives and 115 Environment and Health groups submit, by hand, a citizen petition requesting that the EPA take at least ‘monitoring action’ on fracking wells. The EPA adopted part of this 30 page petition, but decided against enacting portions which were inconsistent with President Obama’s Blueprint. A fully-detailed dialogue between petitioners and the EPA as well as a copy of the Presidential Blueprint can be found on the EPA website (at url: http://www2.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing). In 2013, the EPA released a statement. A portion of the statement was dedicated to explaining the reasoning behind denial of portions of the petition. The EPA cited: unnecessarily broad request (they implemented a more narrow version), and for denial of the other portion the EPA reasoned that the charge of requiring data collection of oil companies was unnecessary because EPA has sufficient information to make an informed decision at this time without putting additional burden on the oil companies. In November 2011, the EPA released information about a new study plan, unrelated to the petition, as the new study was directed by Congress in FY 2010. The results of this study are expected sometime in 2014. Finally, in 2013 the EPA proposed to only regulate waste water discharges from fracking and to not regulate any other aspect of the fracking process.

In summary, of the policy portion in 1997, the courts ruled that EPA had a jurisdictional responsibility to examine fracking and its effect on the environment and health. Then, in 2004 the EPA determined there was little or no effect on the environment or health from fracking. Next in 2005 President Bush signed legislation that gave fracking immunity from the SDWA and the CWA. Again in 2011, protections were not put in place due to their conflict with Obama’s 2009 Blueprint. This action suggests that legally the government should protect the public from fracking if it is unsafe. The federal government is aware of these concerns. But, under Republican direction, they took active steps to bypass the courts decision, maybe because they favored the perceived economic benefits of fracking? Then later, a Democratic controlled Congress ordered the EPA to conduct a new study, but the EPA also declined to implement certain restrictions based on the Obama blueprint, possibly passive steps to not inhibit fracking, due to the perceived economic benefits of fracking?

Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) 4 of 7

Last spring I did a pretty thorough look into fracking so here a copy. Necessarily due to the length it is broken into multiple parts. Here are the links for all parts: Fracking: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Citations.

Methods & Results I

The idea behind this experiment was to examine the literature in general in regards to fracking. The design was inspired by the research of Dr. David Sachsman (Sandman et al, 1972). The actual methods were greatly modified but the idea is similar in that the purpose is to examine and take a snapshot of the current state of the fracking in the literature and to identify any trends that might be apparent.

To collect data, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Lupton Library’s website was used to query 37 different literature databases (listed below) for more details regarding what the journals cover, please see their websites. Combined there are 10’s of millions if not 100’s of millions of individual items that were queried. Here is a url with more detail and links to information on the individual databases that will be left up for a while

 

ABI/INFORM Complete

Academic OneFile

ACM Digital Library

Annual Reviews

BioMed Central

Business and Industry

Business and Management Practices

Business Insights: Essentials

CQ Weekly

Early English Books Online (Digital only)

Education Abstracts

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Expanded Academic ASAP

Gale Virtual Reference Library

General OneFile

General Reference Center Gold

General Science Abstracts

Humanities Abstracts

IEEE Publications Database

Latino Literature

M.E. Sharpe Journals

MEDLINE

MLA International Bibliography

NCJRS Abstracts Database

OAIster

Oxford Journals

Oxford Reference Online

Project Muse

ProQuest Biology Journals

PsycARTICLES

Readers’ Guide Abstracts

ScienceDirect

Snapshots

Social Sciences Abstracts

Taylor and Francis Journals

Wilson Business Abstracts

WorldCat.org

 

 

Each of these databases was queried simultaneously for each of 14 individual Boolean searches. Each of these searches were then broken into two groups: all results and peer-reviewed. This dataset provides a look at what is occurring in the world of fracking .The following are the key word(s) used in the searches:

 

Fracking

Fracking Benefit

Fracking Chemical

Fracking Court

Fracking Economy

Fracking Environment

Fracking Hazard

Fracking Leak

Fracking Policy

Fracking Pollution

Fracking Problem

Fracking Regulation

Fracking Risk

Fracking Rule

 

 

Each of these 28 data sets had articles sorted by year published (1-1-1994 to 12-31-2013) and the number of articles per year for each of the 20 years. 2014 was not included because it would not have contained a full year. The full data is located in appendix 2. A keyword with “PR” at the end indicates the peer-reviewed subgroup. The data sets “Fracking” and “FrackingPR” were then scatter plotted against the year (Graph 1.), and polynomial regression equations of best fit and  values were calculated and included:

Graph 1. Scatter plot of “Fracking” and “FrackingPR” data sets vs “Year” from Table 1.
Graph 1. Scatter plot of “Fracking” and “FrackingPR” data sets vs “Year” from Table 1.

Fracking

y = 0.0265×5 – 264.64×4 + 1E+06×3 – 2E+09×2 + 2E+12x – 8E+14

R² = 0.9838

 

 

FrackingPR

y = 3E-05×6 – 0.409×5 + 2038.2×4 – 5E+06×3 + 8E+09×2 – 6E+12x + 2E+15

R² = 0.9905

Graph 2.  Scatter plot of data set “Fracking” vs “Year” from Table 1. The numbers above the dots indicate the raw number of articles.
Graph 2. Scatter plot of data set “Fracking” vs “Year” from Table 1. The numbers above the dots indicate the raw number of articles.
Scatter plot of data set “FrackingPR” vs “Year” from Table 1. The numbers above the dots indicate the raw number of articles.
Graph 3. Scatter plot of data set “FrackingPR” vs “Year” from Table 1. The numbers above the dots indicate the raw number of articles.

Following this initial graph, two more scatterplots of the total articles and of the peer-reviewed articles were generated independently (Graph 2. and Graph 3.) and the article counts per year were marked on the scatter plots.

After these first three charts, the charts and data were examined for any apparent trends or variations. The first trend noticed is that the total articles per year were negligible prior to 2009, which had 67 (almost double the cumulative total of the previous 15 years). This was similar to what was also observed within the peer-reviewed literature data set, except the increase started in 2010 instead of 2009. From 2009 (2010 for peer reviewed) onward, the general trend was that there were more articles produced per year as the year approached 2013. The year 2013 had the largest quantity of literature produced within a one year period for both categories. Next, the data in the raw data chart was examined & summed for the total number of categories per year with results greater than zero. In 2008, there was one of the 26 remaining categories which contained results. 2009 had 8 categories with results, 2010 had 16 categories, and 2011 had results greater than 0 in all categories. This expansion of results into the subcategories is indicative that more research in more detailed topics -depth and breadth of information- was being examined. After this the statistical program R was utilized to generate 28 independent scatterplots of the individual subcategories for the years 2009-2013 against the year. These graphs are located in appendix 1.

These 28 scatterplots were then individually examined for interesting trends. The first trend observed was that generally speaking, the categories increased in number of articles each year. This was the expected observation. However, only 20 of the 28 five year plots followed this trend. The plots for seven of the eight remaining subsets (Chemical vs Year, Court vs Year, CourtPR vs Year, Hazard vs Year, LeakPR vs Year, PollutionPR vs Year, and RulePR vs Year) all trended up from 2009 to 2012, but in 2013 they showed a decrease in the number of articles. The last remaining scatterplot (ChemicalPR vs Year) increased in the number of articles from 2009 to 2010 and 2010 to 2011, but remained constant from 2011 to 2013. After examining the data three multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) were conducted. In brief, a MANOVA is a statistical test used to determine if there exists a difference within groups of data. The first MANOVA was done comparing all subsets within the year categories, checking to determine if a sub category had a significant change in the number of articles from one year to the next (p-values 1.). The second chart compared the 26 subsets changes to the changes in the “Fracking” set (p-values 2.). This effectively shows which growth curves vary significantly from the fracking curve. Finally, the third MANOVA combined the year and the “Fracking” data set curve against the 26 sub categories (p-values 3.) This shows which subsets had significant differences when both “fracking” article counts and the year were considered simultaneously.

p-values 1. Significant Change in Number of articles between years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 are highlighted in yellow.
p-values 1. Significant Change in Number of articles between years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 are highlighted in yellow.
p-values 2. Significant difference when compared to Fracking Articles in general is highlighted in yellow.
p-values 2. Significant difference when compared to Fracking Articles in general is highlighted in yellow.
p-values 3. When comparing individual subcategories to both fracking articles in general and the individual year of the articles following chart of p-values is generated significant values are highlighted in yellow.
p-values 3. When comparing individual subcategories to both fracking articles in general and the individual year of the articles following chart of p-values is generated significant values are highlighted in yellow.

Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) 3 of 7

Last spring I did a pretty thorough look into fracking so here a copy. Necessarily due to the length it is broken into multiple parts. Here are the links for all parts: Fracking: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Citations.

An Educational Overview of Fracking

            A definition of fracking (at dictionary.com for “hydraulic fracturing”) is as follows:

A process in which fractures in rocks below the earth’s surface are opened and widened by injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure: used especially to extract natural gas or oil.”

Overall, this is a fairly accurate, one-sentence definition of fracking and a good launching point for a more detailed explanation of the complete process of fracking. Let’s zoom out to develop a clear picture of where fracking currently occurs and where it is possible to occur. Fracking is currently conducted in underground shale deposits. When fracked, the oil and gas inside these formations can be obtained more easily and the process can become economically feasible (Phillips, 1972). A map of known world shale deposits from eia.gov released January 2, 2014 is displayed below (Fig 1.).

Looking at the map it can be observed that there are significant deposits of shale, in North America suitable for fracking, and many other locations internationally. The United States seems to be at the front of the pack and well positioned to become the top international energy exporter (Financial Times, 2012).  According to the U.S. EIA the USA has approximately 665 trillion cubic feet of known natural gas and 58 billion barrels of known oil reserves in shale deposits (U.S. EIA, 2013). Advanced Resources International (http://www.adv-res.com/) gives alternate estimates of 48 billion barrels of oil and 1161 trillion cubic feet of gas. Examining FracTracker (Fig 2.) it is fairly easy to determine the location of more than 65,000 fracked wells (FracFocus Wells, 2014).

Using the same website but a different map, it is also easy to locate all the locations and incidents of alleged harm in the United States (Fig 3.). These sites of alleged harm suggest damages ranging from property damage to water pollution to mild medical problems to severe medical problems and even death (PACWA’s List of the Harmed 2014). A major concern among opponents of fracking is the potential to contaminate groundwater (Myers, 2012). Below is a map showing the overlay of shale basins and underground aquifers (Fig 4.). This gives a fairly detailed account of the scope and location, geographically, of the debate. The next important piece of background information concerns the actual physical processes necessary before, during and after fracking occurs.

The first step in actually fracking is to determine a suitable location for a well. To do this the well should be located above a shale basin (Fig 1, 2, 3, 4.). The next few steps are identical to traditional oil well prep. Once the site is prepped and the company is ready to begin digging, they bring their equipment to the well. In traditional oil mining, the well goes straight down into an oil reserve then the liquid oil is pumped out. Hydraulic fracturing is slightly different at this point. The gas and oil are trapped inside a rock formation. This makes it tricky to just drill and pump. The oil companies use a special auger that is able to dig a hole that turns, and when digging, it will be aimed so that it goes either slanted or horizontally through the shale formation, to maximize the pipe exposure to the shale formation. There can be almost a mile in length of horizontal pipe, and 5,000-10,000 feet below the surface(Joshi, 1988).

After digging the hole, the auger is removed and the cap and pipe are installed. This again is the same as normal oil well installation. Following the installation, hardware hydraulic equipment is brought to the site and water (5-7 million gallons) is pumped into the hole under high pressure(Engelder et al, 2011).. Mixed inside the water is a chemical slurry (just a fraction of a percent or about 50,000 lbs of chemicals) which is a special proprietary blend of chemicals. The exact chemicals utilized for the slurry is not commonly disclosed by oil companies. However, thanks to voluntary disclosure it is known to include “{acids, biocides, scale inhibitors, friction reducers, and surfactants” (Engelder et al, 2011). This water chemical mixture, called frackwater, is then pumped out of the well  and pumped into a temporary storage pit (Hubbert & Willis 1972).

While in the subterranean environment, the frackwater potentially picked up heavy metals and radioactive materials in addition to all the unknown chemicals that were previously pumped into the ground (Howorth et al, 2011). Typically more than half of the frackwater is not recovered leaving a lot of chemicals loose in the subterranean space.

The frackwater is then disposed of by trucking it to a certified injection well, and injecting it back into the ground. This process can actually lubricate the tectonic plates and cause earthquakes. At least one of these Ohio earthquakes measured 4.0 on the Richter scale and was felt as far away as Toronto (Davies, 2012). In fact, there have almost been 1000 earthquakes in Ohio since fracking began (CETT 2010).

Fracking is controversial because there are several risks associated with the process. However, there are also substantial benefits to accessing the otherwise inaccessible resources with fracking.

Benefits:

Clean – The fuel burns much cleaner than coal or oil (Engelder et al, 2011).

Abundant product – 58 billion barrels of oil and 665 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the U.S. (U.S. EIA, 2013)

United States energy independence – (U.S. EIA, 2013)

Risks:

Toxic Chemical – These are injected into the ground and may also gain more chemical from the ground or even radiation (Engelder et al, 2011).

Carcinogenic Chemicals – Chemicals that can cause cancer (Engelder et al, 2011).

Mutagenic Chemicals – Chemicals that can cause mutations (Engelder et al, 2011).

Radio Active Contaminants – Matter that is undergoing radioactive decay and may emit alpha, beta or gamma particles (Engelder et al, 2011).

Heavy Metals – Elements such as Chromium, Mercury, Lead, Arsnic etc… Which are hazardous to human health (Engelder et al, 2011).

Methane Gas – is emitted from wells, methane is a greenhouse gas and more potent than  (Engelder et al, 2011).

Carbon Dioxide –  is also released when the gas is burned for heat (Engelder et al, 2011).

On a 20-year outlook, the impact of greenhouse gasses from fracking is worse than the burning of coal or oil (Engelder et al, 2011).

The 100 year outlook puts fracking similar to oil or coal (Engelder et al, 2011).

75% of wells within 1 km of a fracked well had methane contamination “51 of 60 wells” (Osborn et al, 2011)

Potential to cause earthquakes (Davies, 2012)

The other risks identified while reviewing literature were either poorly linked to fracking or required an accident, such as improper installation of a well. While these could be real risks, they are not included here.

In short, the above benefits and risks can be considered to be a debate about a tradeoff between economic benefits and a healthy environment. A small study was conducted to supplement the review of information. The following discussion will describe how the study was conducted and analyzed as well as a discussion concerning the results. The previous discussion might be considered to be an introduction to the experiment.