Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pennsylvania Marcellus News Roundup, Aug. 22-30

Energy Department says it will slash Marcellus Shale gas estimate, after USGS report
The USGS report, released Tuesday, estimates that the eight-state Marcellus Shale region contains some 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas. That amount is far higher than the geological service had estimated in a 2002 report, but far below a recent projection by the Energy Department.
 The conflicting reports prompted confusion and finger pointing amid growing questions about the extent of natural gas reserves available in the Marcellus region, which is in the midst of a drilling boom stretching from New York to West Virginia.
Natural Gas Reserves Debate Intensifies
A new US government estimate for the amount of natural gas contained in the Marcellus Shale is sharply lower than earlier projections.

But the new estimate has not undermined expectations that the Eastern US field will become one of America's most important energy sources in coming years.
Natural-gas data fuels ‘fracking’ battle
New federal estimates of the natural-gas resources beneath Eastern states are quickly touching off fresh battles over the controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling method.
The U.S. Geological Survey this week greatly increased its estimate of recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation that underlies major areas of Pennsylvania, New York and other states.
But while USGS boosted its mean estimate from 2 trillion cubic feet to 84 TCF — almost enough to meet four years of current U.S. demand — the figure is far lower than the federal Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) most recent projection.
Study shows questions remain about economic benefits of Marcellus Shale
The results suggest that in 2009, Marcellus Shale development supported between 23,385 and 23,884 jobs in the state and generated around $3.1 billion in economic activity. This included about $1.2 billion in labor income and nearly $1.9 billion in added value.

"These results are about half the size of those estimated in previous Marcellus economic-impact studies," Kelsey said. "But this isn't surprising because we had more detailed information about leasing and royalty income. Our results confirm that where leasing and royalty dollars are going significantly influences the estimated overall impacts."
SEC Bears Down on Fracking
The federal government's investor-and-markets watchdog is stepping into the heated environmental debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," according to government and industry officials, even as state and federal environmental officials have begun to bring greater pressure on the industry.
EPA meets with Pa. residents over drilling fears
More than a dozen people met with a contingent of federal officials in a private home in Susquehanna County, near the spot where a pipeline company was forced to halt work this month after repeated spills of nontoxic drilling mud into one of the state's most pristine streams.
Ross Considers Ordinances to Regulate Marcellus Shale Drilling
Ordinances to control Marcellus Shale drilling in Ross Township will soon be on the table for consideration, officials said.
UGI says region will be first to go all-Marcellus
UGI Utilities Inc. plans to make the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area its first region in Pennsylvania where customers will receive all their natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
Western Pa. artists to air both sides of fracking
A tiny art gallery named for northwestern Pennsylvania's 19th century oil boom is asking local artists to weigh in on both sides of the fracking debate as Marcellus Shale gas drilling increases in the state.
One Month Later, Corbett Stays Vague On Marcellus Report’s Recommendations late August, Corbett is staying vague on which of the commission’s 96 recommendations he’ll stick with, and which he’ll cast aside.
“We’re still reviewing it in detail,” he said at the Elizabethtown Fair, in rural Lancaster County. “We’re looking at the entire report, not just any one aspect. Breaking it down, as to what can we do without legislation? What may require regulation. What’s the time frame in that.”
The comments mirrored what Corbett told reporters on July 28: “I’m still reading it,” he said at the time.
Earthquake centered in Va. rolls across Pa.
The quake did not appear to have any impact on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania. The state Department of Environmental Protection, the Marcellus Shale Coalition trade group and representatives from drilling companies Chesapeake Energy Corp., Range Resources Corp. and Chief Oil & Gas LLC all said there were no reports of damage.
Nutter resists a role in shale showdown
The Convention Center next month will host a conference called Shale Gas Insight 2011, bringing some of the biggest names in the energy industry - and their political patrons - to Philadelphia.
As mayor of the host city, Michael Nutter no doubt would like to welcome the industry bigs and thank them for bringing their business here, something he occasionally does for conventioneers.
But as a Democrat who wants to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the nation, he could be seen as betraying core principles and political allies.
Instead, he seems determined to stay on the sideline.
State Rep. Boyle Supports Natural Gas Extraction Tax
Despite promises by Governor Tom Corbett to veto any legislation that taxes companies extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, State Representative Brendan Boyle believes that the tax will happen in the near future.
Marcellus Shale sparks start-up’s plans to build ethane plant
Aither Chemicals LLC CEO Len Dolhert said his company’s technology for converting, or cracking, ethane extracted from the wet part of the Marcellus Shale play can be used for plants as small as $200 million. Capital costs for a traditional steam cracker would be expected to be at least $1 billion.
Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission Schedules Hearing in Williamsport
The Citizens Commission will hold five hearings across Pennsylvania to seek citizen perspectives on the Marcellus Shale. Sign up to participate at our first hearing on Wednesday, August 31, 2011, at South Fayette Middle School in McDonald, Pa. (near Pittsburgh). All hearings will be held from 6-9 pm and include time for public comment.
Referendum seeks borough drilling ban

Voters in State College will be asked in November to ban the extraction of natural gas within borough limits.
That question is part of an environmental bill of rights supported by the advocacy group Groundswell PA, which petitioned for a referendum on the issue on the general election ballot Nov. 8. The county’s Board of Elections approved Friday putting the referendum question on borough ballots.
Information on drilling fluids hard to come by in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is one of only four states with regulations in place requiring drillers to disclose on a well-by-well basis the additives and chemicals used in fracturing fluid injected deep underground into oil and natural gas wells. But the state is the only one not to post the data on the Internet.
New bills address digging near gas pipelines
Rep. Matthew Baker, R-68, Wellsboro, and Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., are introducing bills in their respective chambers to bring gathering lines under a state law that provides a notification process to alert construction workers where underground lines are.
Stateline: PA Schools Fill Budget Cuts With Drilling Money
In late July, the Blackhawk School District, 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, joined a handful of other school districts in Pennsylvania looking to cash in on the state’s natural gas boom.
In a vote of seven-to-one, the school board agreed to lease 160 acres of the district’s land to Chesapeake Energy, the largest holder of mineral rights in the Marcellus Shale region, which lies underneath Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
US Energy Agency: PA Driving Northeast Gas Production
...Marcellus Shale drilling is driving the boat, when it comes to natural gas production in the northeast region. Pennsylvania, in particular, has seen a rapid boom, and now leads the way.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Hey Media, It's not just about where you live.

Prior to Hurricane Irene coming up the coast, the media, particularly cable began to focus non-stop on the worst-case scenario for NYC,  That was the narrative for the week.  Even before it passed the narrative changed - the worst didn't happen in NYC, so the whole storm was overblown.

As that new narrative began to take root, word began to leak out on Monday that NJ, upstate New York and western new England were being devastated by record floods due to the rain from the storm.  Today that is the new story. Nate Silver does a good job dissembling the overhyped narrative.

The media also wants you to believe that this was unexpected, but the truth is forecasters warned about it and emergency planners were taking that scenario into account.  But it wasn't in the Big Apple where so much of the media is based and they expected themselves to be the center of the story, their egos wouldn't allow themselves to take into account the whole story. And any weather or disaster expert will tell you, tropical systems are much than where the eye is and what the highest wind gusts are.

Check out the video below of the Deerfield River in Shelburne Falls, MA:


Friday, August 19, 2011

Off for a week.

I'll be gone for a week, when I get back I hope to get the blog back on track.  With connectivity problems it was near impossible to get the Marcellus news updates written.

Vacation is a good time to think about what direction to take ones life, in my case, what do to do with this stunningly useless geology education. Useless so far in getting any sort of career in academia that is - it's all about pedigree, not skills and experience folks. While I'm at it, I'll try to brainstorm during my vacation on where to take this blog and what to change, I'm open to any helpful comments.

See ya in a week.

Some Random Quick Takes

We are busy packing up my home office and the dining room in preparation for some major home repairs and we have to get it done before we head to New England for a week. So I want to just pass on some posts I found interesting

Ta-Nehsi Coates at The Atlantic has been tearing apart the meme that the Civil War was avoidable tragedy that could've been avoided by compromise and the buyout of slave-holders:
Gradual compensated emancipation would, presumably, have been the better option. It would have saved the lives of soldiers, while leaving my grandmother's grandmother as property. This would, presumably, have been "untragic" or "less tragic." At any rate, Delaware -- a state where there were more free blacks than slaves -- rejected this option, preferring to grapple to the last. Compensated emancipation isn't a hypothetical. It was attempted. It failed for actual reasons.
I decline all offers to mourn the second American Revolution. No one mourns the first.
Have to agree with much of what Nashville Fan at Daily Kos recently wrote:
The problem is not WHAT you believe, the problem is the arrogant, dismissive, and hateful way in which you express those beliefs.
 I take what he calls white progressives are what working class Dems in Mass for many years simply called stuck-up assholes from Cambridge, in other words the people who lost Kennedy's seat through sheer arrogance.

Now onto the weather, here is the GISTEMP temperature map for July, click for the larger image.

In sports, I simply can't watch ESPN's morning shows anymore. It has become basically a celebrity channel, everything is about coaches, free-agents,  LeBron and Tiger Woods. How about some actual sports?

"The Soviet Union? I thought you guys broke up."
"YES, that's what we wanted you to think!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

College Athletics: the Most Rotten Thing in Higher Ed

Right now on ESPN Mike Greenberg is trying to argue that the only solution to the boosters paying student athletes and programs is just to let it happen and do away with the rule, totally missing the point that colleges do not exist (or aren't suppose to) as sports-entertainment programs.
Can't be too harsh on sports talk show hosts though, many running academia do think that is the purpose.  Bloomburg reports athletic spending at Rutgers University is higher than any other public university, and 40 percent of the funds coming from student fees and the university's general fund.  At the same time deep budget cuts have been made to academic programs, witha salary freeze for professors. Each year the football coach, Greg Schiano, stays on, the university forgives $100,000 of a no-interest home loan it made to him. Schiano is paid $2.03 million a year. The average associate professor earns less than the amount his home loan is reduced each year.

The faculty do have leverage, they can all walk. It's extreme and those who make up tenured faculty in general are the type of people who demand action from others while never taking any themselves. It's a shame.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Libertarian" Islands?

Now yesterday I was talking up the link between risk-taking and innovation.  But when use an ideological rather than technical motivation you stop pushing the envelope and instead claim the envelope doesn't exist because it conflicts with your ideology. Which leads to the Whack-a-loon idea of the day: Pay Pal founder Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute to create floating libertarian countries in international waters. Is Somalia full or something?

I hate to tell them, but international waters are not lawless regions. If they were to be anchored, they would likely be on the continental shelf and in some nations EEZ.  If free-floating they would be essentially vessels and subject to search from any nation, particularly if they become centers of smuggling.  They would actually only be sovereign if other nations recognized their sovereignty.  The whole scheme sounds like a juvenile Randian inspired fantasy by some people lucky to be in the right place and time to make gobs of money. Never will happen anyway, and it will take more than $1.25 million investments. These people would have to pour their whole fortune into it.

Finally there is the sea itself, which do not treat arrogant people favorably. Methinks none of these folks lived on the New England coast in the winter, let alone sailed through the NW Atlantic in the same season. They wouldn't be so sure about their engineering plans then.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Innovation and Risk in Government Research

They may not have Hubert J. Farnsworth on the payroll, but DARPA engineers and scientists are allowed to do things that have a high-level of both innovation and risk of failure, exemplified by the recent failed test of a hypersonic vehicle.  That is the main thrust of a piece by Michael Belfiore today, who also points out:
Then as now, it was a nimble, quick-moving organization with a minimal bureaucracy and no laboratories of its own. Instead, its 100 or so program managers cook up ideas to farm out to universities, private companies and other organizations to do the work of bending metal and writing code to make them work (or not). (emphasis mine)
I personally know six people with recent masters of Ph.Ds in either geology, marine geology or geophysics who are employed by the federal government  Five of the six do absolutely no science, but are instead employed a bureaucrats. There main function is dealing with grants to universities as well, but instead of pushing the envelope, their agencies just ensure that limited funding is channeled to those academic scientists who are working on the latest fashionable topic that has high cost and a good rate of overhead return for academic administrators.  Basic research in all aspects of geology has in the past been the mission of agencies such as the USGS, but alas this is no longer done.

Pushing the Myth of Divided Americans

A :"News Analysis" from the NYT relies promotes the idea of some political writers that reason Washington is unable to compromise is because the electorate is polarized,
“Americans are self-segregating,” said Bill Bishop, author of “The Big Sort,” a 2008 book that examined, in the words of its subtitle, “why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart.”
I call bullshit because the article and sources studiously ignore the fact that there are more registered independents than ever. The whole article reeks of cherry-picked data. Since we see from political scientists on cable news that they generally act as propagandists for one institutional party or another this is no surprise.

Oh yeah, there was also this gem:
Political clustering is reflected in religious participation and even shopping choices. David Wasserman, of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, recently calculated that 89 percent of the Whole Foods stores in the United States were in counties carried by Barack Obama in 2008, while 62 percent of Cracker Barrel restaurants were in counties carried by John McCain.
What? I've never been to either and never lived in any place with either one.Most places in America are neither Cambridge,MA or Midland, TX. The concept of a linear left-right political spectrum is a gross simplification at best and the concept of a simple binary spectrum is a fiction. Furthermore, although a system like ours tends to produce two dominant parties, the persistence of modern Republicans and Democrats is due more to gerrymandering and control of ballot access than any hardcore loyalty among the majority of the electorate.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Connectivity Improved

A new modem has vastly improved the connection here at the old schoolhouse and I plan to post more frequently and get back to regular Marcellus updates.  However, there is still noise on Verizon's line that is probably the root cause of the problem.  Verizon adamantly tries to avoid having to send someone out to fix problems in the best of times, with their unappreciated technical staff on strike I don;t expect to get the issue resolved any time soon.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday's Strange, Stupid and Surreal, Aug 7

Well I guess the Apocalypse is here, in Texas at least, which seems appropriate  Pray harder Rick.

Lithuania may not have liked being occupied by the Soviet Union, but I think they kept up Stalin's parking enforcement methods.

Gives a new meaning to dunkin’ donuts.

Shh, don't let the Teabaggers here about this DIY health care plan.

THEY say it's a dead badger, but we know it's CHUPACABRA.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saturday Santorum: It's all about the Gays

The Rickster definitely has gay on the brain, methinks he protests a bit too much.  He along with the GOPers are running against the tide on gay marriage, in fact doubling down on it.

Turns out rejected-Sen. Santorum wants to be the nation's minister (odd for a so-called Catholic):
After listening to Santorum’s governing philosophy for an hour, it is clear that his goal is to thoroughly dismantle the federal government, at least as it has come to be since the Great Depression, and turn over most everything (except marriage choice) to the states or to business leaders in the free markets.
That means virtually no role for the federal government in education, health care, business or environmental regulation or public welfare. With less for the government to do, apparently the president would then be free to lead the nation by his own example of moral rectitude toward a “Leave it to Beaver” style nuclear family not seen since the 1950s, with Mom home with the kids. 
Basically Rick is a dick.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Harsh Realities Set in

Wall St. tanked today, with the Dow falling more than 500 points, in what is called a "correction".  Some believe, in short, Kudlow's wonderful investing class realized that nothing was worth as much as they thought.

Fareed Zakaria thinks that the Democrats will now mirror the obstinacy of the Teabaggers and the so-called super committee will deadlock and accomplish nothing.  So we have unbridgeable divide in Congress, thae aggravating part about that is that is the partisan claim that it represents the electorate.  In truth, the partisans make up less than half the voters in many states and their Archie and Meathead bases are an even smaller slice of the population.  Yet due to a rigged electoral system the minorities and their war control the government. I think Obama honestly tried to be post-partisan , but the system is fixed to prevent it from happening.

Texans were told to conserve electricity or run the risk of power outages. Now they are occurring sporadically and rolling blackouts may begins as electricity use skyrockets in the face of unprecedented heat:
"I can't remember any year with the magnitude and length of this heat wave," Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service, told on Thursday.
And it's not just Dallas, or even Texas, for that matter. On Thursday, 14 states from Texas to Virginia were under heat alerts. Several dozen deaths have been tied to the heat since early July.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Burnt to a crisp

Record temperatures were recorded in July in all fifty states, including Alaska:
The temperature at the Northway weather station in Southeast Fairbanks County hit a record 97 F (36.1 C) on July 11.
Hawaii is not influenced by North American continental weather and is usually remarkably constant, but even there record highs were recorded.

Furthermore, almost half the states are drier than normal and record drought continues int the South-central region:
Officials at the National Drought Mitigation Center said the July percentage is the highest recorded level of drought since the monitor began documenting conditions 12 years ago.
So not a long record, but still indicates the severity of the situation.

Debt Ceiling: Reason, Jackasses and Doormats

Andrew Sullivan had some good points on why the debt deal, while not great, is not nearly as bad as the handwringers make it out to be.  Nate Silver, as usual, also has a reasonable perspective on the whole thing:
If Democrats read the fine print on the debt deal struck by President Obama and Congressional leaders, they’ll find that it’s a little better than it appears at first glance.
That’s not to say that the deal is a good one for them. It concedes a lot to Republicans, and Democrats may be wondering why any of this was necessary in the first place. But the good news, relatively speaking, has to do with the timing and structure of the spending cuts contained in the deal.
Though I‘ve concentrated on the wingnuttery of the Teabaggers, the lack of an effective grassroots response falls squarely on the shoulders of the progressive AKA liberal base of the Democratic Party.   As I’ve said before, they adamantly refuse to adopt a populist tone and although they say they are for the little guy they are certainly not of them.  They are not fighters and don’t have much initiative, but annoyingly they expect others to do the work for them.  As for the complaints currently coming from the left-wing, a comment left by JEP on Talking Point Memo pretty much sums up my feelings:
The naysayers on the far left are as  bad or worse than the T-mob.

Where were they when the media was exaggerating the townhall complainers and turning them into local  heroes?

Where were they when the astroturfers were organizing that T-Mob into a movement?

When the tea-mob started forming and the townhall plants started foaming, "The Left" should have been roaming the same meetings with articulate academic foils to the Tea Mob's illiterate maniacs.

If just ONE LIBERAL grassroots entity had stood against the astroturfers as they congealed crazies into a pseudo-movement, and had the sense to become the voice opposing that staged play, even as it was acted out, instead of long after-the-fact, then the media would not have so easily converted it into the movement it really wasn't.

Without all that media enhancement, many more apathetic centrists and angry liberals would have joined the game in the mid-terms and much of this might not have happened.

But I think all those complainers are really just armchair quarterbacks, always quick to vehemently lament their liberal victimhood from the comfort of their computer desk, but never willing to stand up from those poison keyboards and go do the kind of hard work that thwarts the astroturfers and their cheap mob at the ballot box.

Now they'll blame the voter-suppressionistas, and the state legislatures and everyone else but themselves, instead of leaning even harder into the voter registration efforts most of them have never taken part in.

The answers are "out there" for progressives to grasp, unfortunately they think because their cause is right, they deserve to have government handed to them on a silver platter, and it simply does not work that way.

No matter how correct your cause may be, in this age of wholly owned corporate media and Citizens United politics, you still have to go out and earn your majority at the street level.

Sitting around on your keyboard blaming everyone but yourself won't change a thing.

Amen to that. I knew this would be the case. I saw a comment on Democratic Underground two years ago regarding those town hall debacles that pretty much sums up the “liberal base” response, “They’re so angry, I feel bad, I think they just need a big hug.” And democratic pols are going to worry about pleasing base like that?
Now Jon Stewart’s comments can be put in the naysayers column and I don’t fully agree with them, but he is actually pretty independent and definitely has not been AWOL on confronting the Teabaggers.