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Cornell shale study debunked

This looks like a fairly thorough riposte to the Cornell shale gas study. I don't think "debunking" is too strong a word for it. The article lists five things you need to know about the Cornell study. Here's a sample:

Thing #1: The study’s conclusions rely almost entirely on the application of a Global Warming Potential (GWP) factor that’s 45 percent higher for natural gas than the one cited by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.

Thing #2: Even the study’s authors admit their data is “lousy.”...

Thing #4: The authors’ estimates on pipeline leakage are based on data and assumptions that are completely irrelevant to the Marcellus Shale...

I always had it in my mind that Cornell was a good university. But it's going to be hard to maintain that idea in the face of stuff like this.

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Reader Comments (20)


I mean no disrespect to highly knowledgeable commenters here who caution that shale gas is massively over-hyped, but I have been suspicious from the outset at the noisy 'debunking' SG has been getting.

Why? Why are certain people so adamant that it's a busted flush? Especially when the energy industry seems to think otherwise?

Is really all a scam to fleece investors dreamed up by 'the same people that were responsible for the banking crisis'?

Cui bono?

Apr 12, 2011 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Cornell has a really good Hospitality program. Actually it makes sense to put the program in Ithaca, since there is not much else to do in that part of Upstate New York except drink and/or hunt. Seems as though the authors may have been from that program.

Apr 12, 2011 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

"I always had it in my mind that Cornell was a good university. But it's going to be hard to maintain that idea in the face of stuff like this."

I thought you were talking about those people who make the high temp cookware. Oh, a university??? ........ Never heard of it.

Apr 12, 2011 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterPascvaks

It would be wrong to suggest that, since these "professors" are obviously of the post-normal 'just make stuff up if it suits the BigAgenda' variety, all concerns about Shale Gas can just be discounted.

But just as with the endless shroudwaving of the Hyperthermalists, once you get sick to the back teeth of all the lies, cherry picking and bare faced activism; it sure is difficult to take these guys seriously.

It seems that "scientists" now-a-days can just publish any kind of eggregious BS and the Scientific 'Establishment' will just avert their eyes (if they are not actively cheerleading).

But WE are the ones always being accused of being 'anti-science'.

They make me puke.

Apr 12, 2011 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

I wonder if the BBC will put a link to this debunking article next to the link on its home page to the Cornell piece?

Apr 12, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

RoyFOMR Apr 12, 2011 at 8:00 PM

I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Apr 12, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered Commentersandy

That didn't take long! Debunking of anything usually takes quite a long time, witness the slow and exceedingly fine mesh that Climate Audit seives information through.
The investment world is very enthusiastic about gas extracted from shale and has been for quite some time, but politicians here in the UK don't seem to have noticed the existence of it as yet.

OT, sorry, but as a Kiwi and a climate realist, I am angry that Greenpeace idiots are attempting to prevent deep sea petroleum exploration off our North Island's East Cape on the rationale that a Bolivian maritime exploration contractor has been employed. The Prime Minister has made it clear that any protester interfering with lawful exploration work will be aprehended, jailed for a year and/or fined heavily. The NZ Navy is providing the NZ Police with a vessel to keep their eye on the situation and the Air Force is doing their share of monitoring.

Apr 12, 2011 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

@ Alexander K

Apparently, all the Bolivian maritime doomsaying contractors were fully booked:))

Apr 12, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

I always had it in my mind that Cornell was a good university. But it's going to be hard to maintain that idea in the face of stuff like this.

Having gotten my advanced degrees from them, I am embarrassed.

Apr 12, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Cornell University - Ah, yes, founded by Andrew Dickson White, who was its first president. White, supposedly a historian, produced massively footnoted volumes to promote his prejudices. Just as it took some time to delve into AR4 references and show how shoddy they are, it was not for some decades that folk actually took the trouble to look up the White's footnotes and found that White was just making stuff up. White even quoted from sources of fiction - historical novels, and especially liked the fallacy of composition: finding a single dissenting voice, quoting it and trying to pass it off as the consensus view.

Apr 12, 2011 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Hmmm, might be time to resurrect the 'Conflict Thesis'. There is a war between religion and science right here and now.

Apr 13, 2011 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

American schools are deep into post normal and politically driven, politically correct work.
Cornell as one of the original ivy league schools is at least deep into this as any.
Remember: Carl Sagan sat on his deck smoking his home grown and came up with 'nuclear winter' have a nice sciencey way to push for unilateral nuclear disarmament. He got lots of nice Scientific American cover stories and was a veritable regular on talking head shows and tax payer funded TV in the US selling that for years.

Apr 13, 2011 at 3:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@ Alexander K

If the NZ navy and police get a little stretched, they might like to have a quiet word with the French.

I seem to remember the French secret service boys were quite good at dealing with Greenpiss boats.

Apr 13, 2011 at 7:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Cornell is a good university. The "debunking" comes from the folks whose oxen are being gored, so don't take their views at face value.

For instance, take the issue of a 20 year vs. a 100 year time frame. The 100 year time frame discounts the benefits of reducing things like black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane because their effects are powerful but short lived. Many people, now including environmentalists, want to use both the shorter and longer time frame because we aren't going to see CO2 reductions for quite a while, as long as China and India are growing (as they deserve to grow, to get their people out of abject poverty).

Therefore, if we want to reduce warming in the near term, e.g., the next 20/30 years, we have to go after the powerful but short-lived forcings, which include methane. One way to help do that is how what the relative forcings are for a 20 year time frame. Voila! All of a sudden, it is clearly beneficial to reduce these three short term forcing emissions.

So for the shale gas industry to argue that a 20 year period is prejudicial and wrong is entirely self interested. Here is how our Bishop summarized the criticism:

Thing #1: The study’s conclusions rely almost entirely on the application of a Global Warming Potential (GWP) factor that’s 45 percent higher for natural gas than the one cited by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.

Note that the shale industry is citing the IPCC approvingly. Bishop??

Apr 13, 2011 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

@ Apr 13, 2011 at 5:09 PM | John

And why wouldn't they?

What would happen to Shale Gas profit margins if it was determined that the IPCC was a bunch of tendentious, incompetent fantasists and there isn't actually any problem with burning fossil fuels like coal?

OK, I'll take your word that Cornell is a 'good university'.
Curious that their "professors" are peddling this obviously thermageddonist junk.

Apr 13, 2011 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

John: a few things wrong with that study, besides the previous mentioned items.

The world produces about 3 trillion m3 per year of natural gas. If 3% leaks, as stated by Cornell, then the forcing would be equivalent to about 2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year.

(3 trillion x 3% x 23 times CO2 forcing all divided by 1000 kg. I assume that the 23 times forcing is by volume, and not by weight )

Of course, another slight problem is that if methane was escaping at 3% of a wells useful life, then that would mean that methane in the atmosphere is continuously increasing.

Ooops.Its not. While it is again decreasing, it was flat, or even slightly decreasing for over a decade. Over this decade, gas production increased about 25%. Ergo, gas leakage is nowhere near the stated value.

Apr 13, 2011 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson


my While it is again decreasing

should be While it is again increasing

Apr 13, 2011 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

That also means that the gas companies are losing about 13 billion dollars per year in revenue, at $4 per thousand ft3.

Perhaps they are profligate enough to not care about 13 billion dollars, but I doubt it.

Apr 13, 2011 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

Matt Ridley has a new item on his blog which is hugely scathing about Richard Blacks recent one-sided report on this.

Apr 14, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterTS

Great post..!!Thanks for sharing..!!

Jan 20, 2012 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterhomestay in wayanad

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