Appalachian Basin

Professor Ingraffea: The Next Monster Under the Bed

Last night, some 30 college students and I packed into a Cornell University classroom to listen to Dr. Anthony Ingraffea speak about the negative effects of hydraulic fracturing and then the global warming “epidemic.”  Luckily, I have gotten the facts on shale gas development already and it will take more than some colorful graphs from a civil and environmental engineering professor, whose studies have been debunked by his own colleagues, to convince me otherwise.  I can only imagine the nightmares of global warming those students had after watching Ingraffea’s presentation.  Professor Ingraffea may be the next monster under the bed for them, but what he says is mostly outside his field of expertise and often just plain wrong, as noted by his fellow Cornell professors.

Ingraffea showed video taken with a FLIR camera to supposedly demonstrate how methane was being vented into the atmosphere during shale gas development (06:10).  However, we’ve seen this gimmick before and in the video below you can see how the Cornell exhaust stacks on their campus look exactly the same as those in the video Ingraffea shows, so I guess Cornell must be developing some natural gas somewhere on the campus, but I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out where the source might be.  What Ingraffea really shows, of course, is nothing more than combustion exhausts – hot air, not hydrocarbons.

Ingraffea (“Tony the Tiger” to us), who uses natural gas to heat his own home, then attacked natural gas development for what he suggests are high carbon dioxide emissions.  He indicated this is contributing to an inevitable “red zone” at which point we are in “deep doo-doo,”  as he describes (20:00).  We now know and, surely, Ingraffea also knows but chooses not to accept, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are back to 1992 levels as a consequence of natural gas development and use, but who’s counting?  Certainly not our friend Tony.

Ingraffea's Red Zone Chart

The “Red Zone”

Here’s what John Hanger has observed about this achievement:

The shale gas revolution in the USA has led to miraculous declines in carbon emissions and it could be doing so in China, India, Europe, and around the world.  It is an absolute tragedy that among the biggest obstacles to beginning shale gas production in some countries and slashing quickly carbon emissions can be environmentalists who seek to ban “fracking.”

Former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, John Hanger

What I found interesting about Ingraffea’s understanding of this is that he states “Shale gas is dirtier than coal and dirtier than diesel; its not a clean fossil fuel.”  I don’t think anyone here ever said it was a completely clean fossil fuel (and no other energy source is completely clean, either).  It is, however, the cleanest of all the fossil fuels we use. (17:00)

When Ingraffea talks about how supposedly dirty natural gas is, he refers to the amount of methane put into the atmosphere during development.  It is a known fact methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  However, the extent to which Ingraffea talks about these emissions is far exaggerated as proven with his “study” being debunked by multiple entities including studies funded by the Sierra Club.

Applying the EPA’s new estimates, the life-cycle greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas-fired electricity increased roughly 11 percent, according to the study.  Despite a substantial increase in the methane assumed to be emitted during natural gas production, we found that U.S. natural gas-fired electricity generation still released 47 percent fewer greenhouse gases than coal from source to use.

Saya Kitasei, a Worldwatch Institute Sustainable Energy Fellow

What is Your Solution?

The final part of Ingraffea’s presentation was an attempt to evoke discussion from students and find out what they would do to lower greenhouse gas emissions and keep us out of the “red zone.”  Students gave responses many of which were to ramp up renewable energy sources and stop all fossil fuel development, exactly what I expected to hear.

Then Ingraffea gave his proposal on how he would handle global temperature change, which was to stop all development and use of fossil fuels; increase the use of renewable and nuclear energy.  This was an interesting response coming from a person and group that complains about radon in flowback fluid.  I wonder if Ingraffea is familiar with the waste products from nuclear energy and how that is disposed.  I guess I shouldn’t complain though, at least someone gave an alternative plan instead of just say no to everything like most anti’s.

Ingraffea Fixes Global Warming

How Ingraffea would decrease emissions

Ingraffea talked about how shale gas was not the answer and other things to look to were wind and solar energy.  Again, its very easy to sit back and say “hey lets use the sun and wind to power everything” yup, thats great.  But what about those rare earth minerals we need to mine to make those solar panels function?

Ingraffea complained about the amount of steel we had to produce for pipelines and natural gas infrastructure and how this manufacturing creates green house emissions.  What about the production of windmills and all that steel?  What about the transportation of these windmills to site, that produces green house gases as well,  the amount of birds killed off from windmills, etc.?

Cornell’s Position on Hydraulic Fracturing

In a recent Forbes Magazine article the President and Vice-President of Cornell University had this to say about hydraulic Fracturing:

We cannot put this genie back in the bottle. Fracking is already being carried out across the country. And shale basins have been identified on six continents, making fracking a truly global issue. The questions before us are not only whether to frack, but how, where and with what safeguards in place.

With natural gas supplies plentiful for now and prices relatively low, we have time to make sound decisions about our shale gas resources. In creative partnership with government and industry, universities can help make sure we get it right.

Clearly the higher-ups at Cornell believe that shale gas development is the future and appear to support it.  However, Ingraffea does not agree with Cornell’s position on the matter.  Is it just my imagination, or was Tony a little rattled by the Cornell leadership’s remarks?  You be the judge, but it wasn’t a very convincing answer and, for just a second, I thought the good professor wanted to be back on that football field he likes to talk about, tackling his boss, the Cornell quarterback.

Most of us are for energy independence, whether it comes from nuclear, solar, coal, wind, or natural gas.  Most of us want an “all of the above” solution.  Whether we like to admit it or not, all sources have impacts and anyone who says otherwise is either not educated on the matter or deceptive.  We need to reach a compromise between fossil fuels and renewable energy.  Many of the antis want to bring renewable energy to areas and gradually phase out the use of fossil fuels.

We all get it and most of us support renewable energy development, but what happened in New York when a wind farm was proposed and voted down because of  “visual pollution” can’t be ignored.  Every energy source has NIMBY opponents.  Perhaps, if  Tony Ingraffea and friends would just take his boss’s suggestion and work towards a solution by refining the process rather than trying to stop it, we’d get somewhere.

  • Dave Perotto
    Posted at 8:22 pm, September 26, 2012 Reply

    Dr infraffea is a loney toon. I feel I have the right to say this as a Cornell diploma hangs on my wall. He actually tarnishes that degree. When the liberal elites lose their influence at this Ivy League School I will feel more pride, but I will not hold my breath!
    Dave Perotto

  • WinK
    Posted at 11:33 am, September 27, 2012 Reply

    Like all antis, the good Dr. Tony likes to have – and use – their own version of the facts. Josh Faux spoke for all of them; when asked about flaming water in PA for over a century his response was something along the line of: Yes but that’s irrelevant”! Idgits!!

  • Henry Kramer
    Posted at 12:30 pm, September 27, 2012 Reply

    While I defend the right of Cornell professors to speak freely even when they are wrong (first amendment), Ingraffea is an example of someone who cannot accept cold, hard facts that run contra to his theories. Academic inquiry should be a search for truth, not a platform for an ideology.

    Heating his own home with natural gas is the crowning irony. If he’s a true believer, how can he let himself do that?

  • Concerned Scientist
    Posted at 1:45 pm, September 27, 2012 Reply

    Based on the graph you show above, Ingraffea somehow imagines us getting by with about 20% of the energy we currently use in 2050. If you sum the total of his wind, solar and nuclear it looks to equal the amount of energy we get from gas alone today. And we will have about 2 billion more people on the planet! Get real man!

    Gas is the best complementary fuel for wind and solar. It takes a matter of minutes to increase or decrease output from a gas plant while nuclear plants are not nearly as responsive. Wind and solar back backed up by nuclear is not nearly as efficient as wind and solar backed up by gas. You will end up producing a bunch of electricity that isn’t needed if you back up wind and solar with nuclear.

    He doesn’t want development in his own backyard and that colors his thinking. He has lost all scientific objectivity on this issue. It’s bad for science and bad for society. The country needs scientists who will do their best to keep personal preferences out of their interpretations.

    • WinK
      Posted at 6:56 pm, September 27, 2012 Reply

      And the real sad thing is that Tony Ingraffe – and many others like him – use their classroom as a pulpit to preach their own ideology. So the kids are not getting an education, they’re getting lessons based on profs’ personal opinions. Shame!

  • Victor Furman
    Posted at 12:04 pm, September 28, 2012 Reply

    Two years ago in Big Flats NY where Ingraffea was presenting his fragmented line of BS to the flock of gas using deniers, I met up with him in the hallway. I asked him if it was true that he collected $5,000.00 a lecture on this subject and he said yes. $5,000.00 for a few hours of work to supplement a retirement income with paid for science… Where can I sign up?

  • Nina
    Posted at 3:36 pm, September 28, 2012 Reply

    Yes, a sad end to an otherwise prior good career for Dr. Ingraffea.

    Between his disgraced GHP papers with Howarth to his transparently biased and incomplete public presentations to his coup de grace dive bomb crash appearance in Josh Fox’s “Sky is Pink” one has to wonder if he is suffering from dementia. That stuff about only a single casing and one inch of cement protecting the groundwater was kindergarten mistake. No wonder Schlumberger fired him as a consultant over 13 years ago and he has never had any experience in horizontal drilling operations. A true poseur.

  • Ralphey
    Posted at 10:01 am, October 01, 2012 Reply


    OMG I am going to die from drowning when the oceans rise from GlobaL warming, an asteroid is suppose to hit the earth, yellowstone is suppose to explode and initiate global cooling, the canary islands are suppose to collapse and cause a mega tsunami on the east coast … the list goes on and on ……..pass the prozac please

  • James McMurtry
    Posted at 6:30 pm, October 02, 2012 Reply

    When Tony says “The industry says there are no problems, why do we need research if there are no problems?”

    The obvious answer is “we have been researching cars and car safety for almost three quarters of a century, and no where in that time did people suggest banning cars. Similar things can be said about planes, or even boats, or vaccines, or any number of things. Research is an ongoing process for improvement. Fracking has been shown to meet the commonly accepted standards for mining and extraction (i.e. much cleaner than coal mining) but that doesn’t mean there are no problems. Life is problems, shouldn’t a teacher teach his students that first?”

Post A Comment