Wednesday, June 27, 2012

‘Fracking’: Myth Meets Realties


A natural gas rig side by side with homes in Washington County, PA | B. Mark Schmerling

Fractured Lives

Detritus of Pennsylvania's Shale Gas Boom

By Edward Humes

Progressive America Rising via Sierra Club

The supple hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, once known for their grassy woodlands, red barns, and one-stoplight villages, bristle with new landmarks these days: drilling rigs, dark green condensate tanks, fields of iron conduits lumped with hissing valves, and long, flat rectangles carved into hilltops like overgrown swimming pools, brimming with umber wastewater.

Tall metal methane flaring stacks periodically fill the night with fiery glares and jet engine roars. Roadbeds of crushed rock, guarded by No Trespassing signs, lie like fresh sutures across hayfields, deer trails, and backyards, admitting fleets of tanker trucks to the wellheads of America's latest energy revolution.

This is the new face of Washington County, the leading edge of the nation's breakneck shale gas boom. Natural gas boosters, President Barack Obama among them, have lauded it as a must-have, 100-year supply of clean, cheap energy that we cannot afford to pass up. However, recent data suggest that supplies of shale gas may last for only 11 years and that the extreme measures needed to recover it may make it a dirtier fuel than coal. But that hasn't slowed the dramatic transformation of gas-rich regions from rural Pennsylvania to urban Fort Worth, Texas.

Driving this juggernaut is the amalgam of industrial technologies collectively known as "hydraulic fracturing," or "fracking," which releases the gases (the main component of which is methane) hidden deep within layers of ancient, splintery shale. With five major shale "plays" concentrated in eight states, and more under development, America has been transformed from a net importer of natural gas into a potential exporter.

Perched atop the 7,000-foot-deep Marcellus Shale formation, which undergirds most of Appalachia, Washington County not only boasts enormous reserves of methane but also leads the state in producing far more frack-worthy "wet gas" products: propane, butane, ethane, and other valuable chemicals that can mean the difference between a money pit and a money gusher. Although central Pennsylvania has more wells, this wet gas makes Washington County, in industry parlance, a "honeypot."

The lure of million-dollar payouts has led many farmers, homeowners, school boards, and town commissions to lease out their subterranean energy wealth. Royalty payments on leases so far have topped half a billion dollars statewide--money that, for some, is literally saving the farm.

"An unprecedented economic impact," Matt Pitzarella has called it. He's spokesman for the leading driller in this part of the state, Texas-based Range Resources, which in 2004 fracked the first successful Marcellus Shale wells--at the time a shot in the dark and now believed to be tapping the second-largest natural gas field in the world. Pitzarella ticks off stories of poor families who hit the gas-lease lottery and are now able to afford college tuition, new cars, and home makeovers.

But unlocking half-billion-year-old hydrocarbon deposits carries a price, and not everyone shares in the bonanza. For every new shale well, 4 million to 8 million gallons of water, laced with potentially poisonous chemicals, are pumped into the ground under explosive pressure--a violent geological assault. And once unleashed, the gas requires a vast industrial architecture to be processed and moved from the wells to the world. Imagine the pipes, compressors, ponds, pits, refineries, and meters each shale well in Pennsylvania demands, planted next to horse farms, cornfields, houses, and schools. Then multiply by 5,000.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Angry Silents, Disengaged Millennials

The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election

November 3, 2011


Not since 1972 has generation played such a significant role in voter preferences as it has in recent elections. Younger people have voted substantially more Democratic in each election since 2004, while older voters have cast more ballots for Republican candidates in each election since 2006.

A new Pew Research Center study suggests this pattern may well continue in 2012. Millennial voters are inclined to back President Barack Obama by a wide margin in a potential matchup against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, while Silent generation voters are solidly behind Romney. Baby Boomers and Generation X voters, who are the most anxious about the uncertain economic times, are on the fence about a second term for Obama.

At the same time, the polling identifies potential fissures at both ends of the age spectrum that may affect these patterns. Older Republican-oriented voters, unlike younger people, rate Social Security as a top voting issue. While they favor the GOP on most issues, this is not the case for Social Security. Younger Democratic-leaning voters continue to support Obama at much higher levels than do older generations. But Obama’s job ratings have fallen steeply among this group, as well as among older generations, since early 2009. Perhaps more ominously for Obama, Millennials are much less engaged in politics than they were at this stage in the 2008 campaign.

Read the full report for more information on these subjects:


Thursday, June 21, 2012

2012: The Best ‘Framers’ May Win

Why Conservatives Sell Their Wildly

Destructive Ideology Better Than Democrats

By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling
Progressive America Rising via AlterNet

June 18, 2012 -Framing is (or should be) about moral values, deep truths, and the policies that flow from them.

As of their kickoff speeches in Ohio, Romney and Obama have both chosen economics as their major campaign theme. And thus the question of how they frame the economy will be crucial throughout the campaign. Their two speeches could not be more different.

Where Romney talks morality (conservative style), Obama mainly talks policy. Where Romney reframes Obama, Obama does not reframe Romney. In fact, he reinforces Romney's frames in the first part of his speech by repeating Romney's language word for word -- without spelling out his own values explicitly.

Where Romney's framing is moral, simple and straightforward, Obama's is policy-oriented, filled with numbers, details, and so many proposals that they challenge ordinary understanding.

Where Obama talks mainly about economic fairness, Romney reframes it as economic freedom.

As the authors of Authors of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic, here's a discussion of Obama's speech.


Obama began his kickoff campaign speech in Cleveland stating that he is "in complete agreement" with Romney: "This election is about our economic future. Yes, foreign policy matters. Social issues matter. But more than anything else, this election presents a choice between two fundamentally different visions" regarding economic policy.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Greece: One Graphic, 10,000 Words

Breaking Down the Greek election:


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Defeating Obama by Stifling Jobs

Republicans Try to Actively Sabotage

U.S. Economy to Win Fall Election

By Robert Creamer
Progressive America Rising via HuffPost

June 7, 2012 - Let's be blunt. Leaders of the Republican Party - including their Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney - have moved from "rooting against" our economy to actively attempting to sabotage the economy of the United States.

They believe that their chances of defeating President Obama, taking control of the Senate, and maintaining control of the House of Representatives materially improve if the economic recovery stalls. And they aren't just standing around hoping that a European financial collapse or higher oil prices will send the economy into a second recession - they are actively trying to make it happen.

It is astonishing, but today the surest way to make certain that a piece of legislation is deep-sixed by the Republicans in Congress is to demonstrate that it will help create jobs in the American economy.

The first concrete example involves actual concrete -- the reauthorization of the Transportation Bill that provides funding for roads, bridges and mass transit projects across the country.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Why Trump and the Birthers Won't Go Away

The GOP's Race Card:

Real Issue Is Obama's Not 'White'

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Progressive America Rising via HuffPost

June 1, 2012 - President Obama was indeed prophetic when he said at a press conference a year ago that his release of his long form birth certificate would not convince countless numbers of anti-Obama skeptics that he was a bona fide American.

Nearly a year after the president called it right on the bogus issue, the Public Policy Polling survey of GOP voters in Georgia, Tennessee and, more troubling, Ohio, because it's the key battleground state, found that more than one third of GOP voters still didn't believe he was born in the U.S.

The same high degree of doubt about Obama's birth likely would be found among GOP voters in other states. Billionaire professional Obama basher Donald Trump almost certainly knew that, and that he spoke for untold millions when he calculatingly lashed out at Obama again with the phony birther charge.

Before Trump shoved the issue back into public debate, the hope was that despite the president's warning and fear, and the negative poll findings, that birtherism had become a nonissue. This seemed even more the case when GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the top GOP presidential contenders during the GOP primary campaign, all publicly rejected the birther claim about Obama.

But their public rejection of it as Trump has amply shown won't put the issue to rest simply because birtherism is a serviceable political chip for the GOP. In the months immediately before and after the president released his long form certificate, bills were introduced in 14 states that required presidential candidates to show iron clad proof of their U.S. birth. None of the bills passed. However, the mere fact of introducing the birth certificate requirement legislation in these states was just enough to continue to fan the flames of anti-Obama sentiment. There's even more to this apparent crackpot stuff.


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