A better way

For Your Consideration

editorial@sierrastar.comFebruary 25, 2014 

In last week's guest commentary, "Responding to fracking," David Johnson harshly chastised me for not only misleading, but flat-out wrong, statements about water usage for fracking, water injection and steam injection used to extract oil in Kern county. I said Kern oil producers use vast amounts of fresh water in this process.

Mr. Johnson was adamant that none of it was used for fracking and that salt water — not fresh water — was used in a common practice called water flooding or steam flooding. Water flooding has been a common practice since the 1920s but that in itself is not evidence that it is a practice used by Kern oil producers today.

There is a reason why I went on the fracking tour field trip led by Tom Frantz. I thought it would lend more credibility to my past academic treatise on the subject. On that trip, I saw no evidence of salt water wells. Perhaps Mr. Johnson should go on that tour and identify the active salt water flooding operations and include that in a follow-up article. That would make his blanket, non-sourced, assertions more credible.

An extremely comprehensive treatment on the subject can be found in the report "California Drought is No Problem for Kern County Oil Producers" by Jeremy Miller. In it he interviews Curtis Creel, the water resource manager for the Kern Water Agency. His agency distributes water to 13 "member units" in Kern County, which, in turn, sell that water to an array of interests, from municipal drinking water supplies to industrial firms.

"According to Creel, farming accounts for the lion's share of water used in Kern County. But there is another big water user in Kern County – the oil industry."

Jeremy Miller also spoke to the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). According to the DOGGR, Kern County oil companies injected 1.3 billion barrels of water and steam into the ground in order to produce 162 million barrels of oil a year.

"More surprising, perhaps, is that much of the water used by Kern oil companies to extract 550,000 barrels of crude oil a day comes from the same source that farmers get it: California's network of irrigation projects."

Last time I checked, fresh water flows through these irrigation projects. Mr. Johnson says that Hydrogen Sulfide is benign because rotten eggs emit that same gas. That's equivalent to saying CO2 as a greenhouse gas is not a problem because we exhale it. I can only suggest that Mr. Johnson sit by one of these North Belridge wastewater ponds for an hour and see if he maintains that cavalier opinion.

Lastly Mr. Johnson asked, "I have a question for Mr. Cheah. Why don't the people of Texas rise up and complain about fracking?" He further states, "The people of Texas like their land, cattle, ranches, and water supply just as much as anyone else. The reason Texans don't rise up is that 98% of this fracking nonsense is not true."

Does this mean that if I can provide evidence that the people of Texas are rising up, then 100% of these fracking claims are true?

Type these headlines on your favorite internet search engine: Texans angrily protest fracking after 30 earthquakes hit town; Fracking in Ponder, Texas: the real cost (video); Texan drought sets residents against fracking (video); a Texan tragedy: ample oil, no water.

(Fracking boom sucks away precious water from beneath the ground, leaving cattle dead, farms bone-dry and people thirsty}

If one isn't aware of this perhaps it's time to get your news from sources other than FOX and their surrogates.

There are better ways to supply our energy needs without depleting our water supplies, destroying farm land, displacing people from their homes, increasing cancer rates and health risks, and destroying the planet. The future of renewables is inevitable. All the climate change deniers and all the pro-fracking and fossil fuel advocates will eventually embrace it. When? You can get some insight into that when you watch the videos I referenced.

A common theme persists. People are indifferent or unconcerned until it happens in their own backyard. And when it does, as these residents realized, it's too late. So when are we going to speak up for a better way before it's too late? The time is now.

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