Another day, another fact-free television appearance by Josh Fox. This weekend, the widely-panned filmmaker took his “talents” to MSNBC on All In with Chris Hayes – but once again, the experts disagree with most of what Josh has to say. As usual, we watched it so you don’t have to. Here’s what you missed…along with what the participants on that show did, too, apparently.
Chris Hayes, MSNBC: “When I first watched that iconic shot from the documentary GasLand, I, like most Americans I’m guessing, knew absolutely nothing, zero, about the gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.”
The “iconic shot” from the original Gasland film was the infamous “flaming faucet” scene. It’s an interesting piece to describe as the movie’s “iconic scene,” because while Gasland asserts that this is a result of natural gas development in the area, testing by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) showed the methane was actually naturally occurring. As COGCC explained shortly after the movie’s release:
“…we concluded that Mike Markham’s and Renee McClure’s wells contained biogenic gas that was not related to oil and gas activity. Unfortunately, Gasland does not mention our McClure finding and dismisses our Markham finding out of hand.”
Josh Fox: “Methane is natural gas. What people don’t understand is how much of this methane is leaking.”
For the majority of his MSNBC interview, the Fox continued to claim that methane “leakage” is negating the emissions-reduction benefits of natural gas use. It’s by no means a new claim, and still not true. In fact, according to Resources for the Future – an environmental think tank – the methane leakage rates associated with shale development are both minimal and, in Josh Fox’s case, far overestimated.
“The problem for embracing natural gas as a bridge to a low carbon future has been uncertainty about the amount of methane emitted in gas production, processing and distribution. However, a host of studies are coming forward to reduce this uncertainty and the best information available shows that such emissions are well under the amount that would make lifecycle global warming potential of gas equal to that of coal.”
As EID explained in our debunking of Gasland Part II (or Gasland Too), Josh Fox backs the majority of his methane leakage claims on work done in a 2011 paper by Cornell professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea – both of whom make an appearance in Fox’s recent production. Their paper, which asserts natural gas developed from shale is a disaster for the climate, has been debunked by about every single expert imaginable – from the U. S. Department of Energy, to the EPA, to researchers at MIT. Howarth and Ingraffea’s fellow Cornell professors also refuted these claims in a 2012 paper, noting “none of these [Howarth/Ingraffea’s] conclusions are warranted, especially in the light of new data and models.” Even a study funded by the anti-gas Sierra Club found the Howarth/Ingraffea research to be “biased” and “wrong.”
Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, has also stated that the manageability of environmental concerns related to hydraulic fracturing, notably in regard to methane leakage, are manageable and do not deter from the importance of natural gas itself. The EPA, meanwhile, has acknowledged its estimates of methane leakage were way too high in its initial assessment and dramatically lowered its estimates for its 2013 Greenhouse Gas Inventory. And even those revised estimates were still too high, given actual industry practices.
Josh Fox: “I couldn’t be happier about [the President’s Climate Action Plan]. I couldn’t be more unhappy that the plan increases natural gas production, exports natural gas production, and encourages natural gas production in other countries.”
Fox was so outside the realm of credibility that even MSNBC’s Chris Hayes put him in his place, describing how U.S. CO2 emissions continue to drop, due in large part to increased natural gas use, an increasing share of which is coming from shale. Other reports have found increased natural gas use is reducing air pollutants and even serving as a perfect complement for expanded renewable generation. Combine that with the proven low methane leakage rate and the other benefits of natural gas (jobs, economic growth, and reduced imports), and it appears natural gas, a fuel Fox and others are so quick to protest, is actually key to the clean energy future they are fighting so hard to achieve.
Conveniently, Fox didn’t mention any of this – which isn’t surprising, since the film he was promoting didn’t bother with the facts either.