One of the most controversial topics in the energy industry today is fracking. For those unfamiliar with fracking—forget the politics for a moment—it is a drilling technique by which water (generally, process wastewater) is injected into a well under high pressure to induce hydraulic fracturing. This results in a significant increase in the well’s productivity. Proponents point to the large amount of otherwise unobtainable shale gas that can be recovered and the resulting economic and energy-independence benefits. Opponents object to environmental and health risks that have been associated with the technique.
So, perhaps the first question we should be asking is how important is shale gas to our overall energy strategy. According to the American Gas Association (AGA), shale gas is “clean, abundant and environmentally friendly.” On the other hand, Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires that all new federal buildings and major renovations of existing federal buildings meet Architecture 2030’s 2030 Challenge targets. Those targets call for fossil-fuel—including shale-gas—reductions of 70 percent by 2015 and 100 percent (carbon neutrality) by 2030.
Not surprisingly, the AGA is lobbying for a repeal of Section 433, which would allow the United States to increase its use of shale gas. And equally unsurprising, Architecture 2030, which describes itself as non-profit, non-partisan, and independent, is leading the charge to keep it, even at the risk of having the Senate kill the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman energy-efficiency bill (repeal of Section 433 isn’t the only problematic amendment in the bill; there’s also the Keystone XL pipeline and ethanol).
Around the time the AGA was lining up support from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Alliance to Save Energy (in its preliminary analysis of Shaheen-Portman, ACEEE estimated it would save about 9.5 quadrillion Btu, or almost 10 percent of U.S. annual energy consumption, from 2014 to 2030), the journal Science reported large earthquakes around the world have been linked to smaller quakes at U.S. fracking sites.
We all are concerned about energy conservation, energy independence, and the environment. Such issues will continue to challenge us and our industry. Clearly, we have an obligation to stay informed and make our opinions known to elected officials.
By the way, as of this writing, the Commercial Building Modernization Act (S. 3591) I blogged about in June still has not been reintroduced, and existing commercial-building energy-efficiency tax deductions are set to expire on Dec. 31.