Mark Ruffalo to Rehash Long Discredited Fracking Claims in “Dear President Obama”
Anti-fracking activist and Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo has been busy this week promoting a new film he is narrating called “Dear President Obama,” which calls on the president to “take action in the remaining months of his presidency to end hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.”
The premiere of the film, which takes place in Washington, D.C. tonight, hasn’t gotten much traction in the press, but that’s not surprising considering that – like the Gasland films before it – “Dear President Obama” simply rehashes claims that the nation’s top scientists (and indeed the world’s top scientists) have thoroughly debunked.
President Obama’s climate legacy: dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to natural gas
In an Op-Ed in the Huffington Post, Ruffalo and film director Jon Bowermaster claim,
“At issue: President Obama’s environmental tenure and legacy, which has included both substantial steps forward and backward. He enacted the automobile fuel efficiency standard, has invested in renewable energy like solar and wind, has taken a strong stance against climate deniers and saw through the Paris climate agreement. At the same time, he oversaw a massive expansion of oil and natural gas drilling, much of it by more and more dangerous and extreme methods, chiefly fracking.”
But what have the actual scientists had to say about President Obama’s “massive expansion of oil and gas drilling?”
According to the world’s most prominent climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
“A key development since AR4 is the rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal-drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas (IEA, 2012b); this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.” (emphasis added)
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), since 2005, natural gas has prevented more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted from power plants in the United States. Meanwhile, by comparison, the use of renewable energy has prevented only 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. EIA also noted as natural gas fired electricity generation ramped up, power plant greenhouse gas emissions reached a 27-year low in April 2015.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency’s (IEA) has just released data finding,
“In the United States, emissions declined by 2% (in 2015), as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.”
IEA previously hailed the “decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States” as “one of the bright spots in the global picture” and went on to note, “One of the key reasons has been the increased availability of natural gas, linked to the shale gas revolution.”
The Breakthrough Institute (BTI) – an environmental group founded by individuals whom Time Magazine recognized as “heroes of the environment” – released a report in 2013 that demonstrated that natural gas has prevented 17 times more carbon dioxide emissions than wind, solar, and geothermal combined.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator McCarthy has long recognized the environmental benefits of our increased use of natural gas, explaining, “Natural gas has been a game changer with our ability to really move forward with pollution reductions that have been very hard to get our arms around for many decades.”
If anything, President Obama’s climate legacy is actually one of dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, thanks to the increased use of natural gas in electricity generation – and Ruffalo and his cohorts, who claim that climate change “is really mankind’s greatest threat,” want to end the production of the one fuel that has delivered significant climate benefits for the United States.
Western Democratic governors tout fracking for environmental and economic benefits
It’s clear from the press release that the film will attack two prominent Democratic western governors: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and California Governor Jerry Brown. These are two governors who both have strong climate records, and have long touted the environmental and economic benefits of fracking in their states.
Governor Hickenlooper recently said, “I can’t find an example in the West […] where the actual process of fracking has put frack fluid in the groundwater.” By the way, a recent poll found that Coloradoans overwhelmingly support shale development.
Governor Brown recently explained on Meet the Press, “If we reduce our oil drilling on California, which a ban on fracking would do, we’ll import more oil by train or by boat, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Elsewhere, Brown has put it more bluntly, saying anti-fracking activists “don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
Rehashing debunked claims
“Dear President Obama” will likely rehash the flaming faucets of Gasland, even though those were proven to be a fraud. Meanwhile, the EPA has completed its comprehensive, five year study of fracking and groundwater, which found “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.”
It will likely claim that fracking causes earthquakes, even though scientists who have studied induced earthquakes for years have said on multiple occasions that fracking is not the culprit. As Stanford geophysicists Mark Zoback, stated recently,
“What’s happening in Oklahoma is unrelated to hydraulic fracturing. It’s unrelated to hydraulic fracturing flowback water. It’s caused by massive injection of produced water.”
Injection wells, which are a completely separate process from fracking, also pose a very small risk of seismic activity. A report by Energy In Depth – which uses data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and peer reviewed studies – finds that fewer than one percent of wastewater injection wells across the United States have been potentially linked to induced seismicity.
The film will likely claim that methane emissions during shale development cancel out the benefits of natural gas, even though study after study has found that emissions are low – far below what is required for natural gas to have clear environmental benefits. That’s why the IPCC has said, even “[t]aking into account revised estimates for fugitive emissions, recent lifecycle assessment indicate that specific GHG emission are reduced by one half” as more power plants are powered by natural gas.
It will likely claim that air emissions during fracking harm public health even though state regulatory agencies in Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have looked at emissions from well pads and concluded that they are below public health thresholds, and that available technologies are being used to minimize emissions. Further, data from the EPA and several other studies show that since the shale revolution began, a number of key criteria pollutants have dramatically declined, having a profoundly positive effect on public health for families across the country. From 2005 to 2013 emissions of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) have decreased by 60 percent; emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) decreased by 68 percent; and emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) decreased by 52 percent. As regulators and scientific experts have noted, this progress is largely due to the skyrocketing production and use of natural gas.
Climate leaders frack
When Democrats and clear climate leaders – from President Obama to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to Governor Jerry Brown – debunk anti-fracking activists, showing that they are denying the science, it only demonstrates how marginalized they truly are.