This week, while researching an upcoming piece on oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford Shale, I reached out to Anthony Ingraffea, a professor at Cornell University's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and persona non grata in the oil and gas industry.
Ingraffea is perhaps best known for co-authoring a 2011 Cornell University study that questioned one of the key arguments for widely expanding use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking: that natural gas burns twice as “clean” as coal, and therefore has a lighter greenhouse gas footprint. According that now-infamous study (Ingraffea co-authored it with Robert Howarth, David R. Atkison, and Renee Santoro), compared to coal the footprint of shale gas is at least 20 percent higher.
Luckily for me, Ingraffea last night just happened to be in San Antonio for a Minerals, Metals, & Materials Society conference. When I caught up with him at his hotel we sat down for a talk about the global implications of the fracking expansion (around the 12:00 mark), his controversial Cornell study (17:00) and what he thinks government and regulators should do about fracking (27:20).
As the Eagle Ford Shale Consortium meets in San Antonio today and tomorrow, expect a barrage of headlines heralding the increase in tax revenue going to local governments, the job opportunities brought by oil and gas companies buzzing in the Eagle Ford, and how shale gas plays a key role in securing our energy independence.
You will not, of course, hear a critical voice like Ingraffea's coming from any of the consortium's panels (Ingraffea, in fact, even used to consult for industry). At the consortium's gathering last year, at least Alamo Area Council of Governments Natural Resources Director Peter Bella was invited to cover concerns of how emissions from drilling in the Eagle Ford might wreck the San Antonio region's tenuous Clean Air Act compliance. Bella's not back on the list of speakers this year.
So Happy Eagle Ford Shale Day, San Antonio. And if you want to hear a critical take on what all those industry insiders are talking about over at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center today and tomorrow, watch this chat with Ingraffea. – Michael Barajas