Tag Archives: pragmatism

A Man In Touch With What’s Real

9 Feb

Senator Joyce writes from his flood-besieged home town of St George, for the Canberra Times:

Muddy waters sets the real tone

I am at a friend’s place staring out at the peak of the flood. In my town, St George, the hydraulic pressure of the river is forcing its way back up the storm water drains into the centre of town creating menacing pools of brown water inside the levy bank. The water trucks normally used for dust suppression are sucking up the water and taking it to the edge of the levy. Outside the levy bank is the bitter frustration of yet another flood, the third in two years.

It is the awesome spectacle of the energy required to lift billions of tonnes of water thousands of kilometres inland for which only a fraction ends up in the flooded river. The energy that is required is beyond comprehension. The temper of the town oscillates between community fervour to an understandable silent brooding, frustration and anger. The juxtaposition is stark between a house on a lawn, and just down the street, a house in the water.

The Local Disaster Management Group finds its own rhythm. They call for a mandated evacuation, and most go, but those with a job to do stay and some who are more scared of going than staying hide while others just completely ignore the order. The day for me starts with a quick look around town, public meetings and media and then either sandbagging, getting on the phone and chasing issues through or heading out to where help is required. The smaller towns feel they are forgotten in the shadow of the larger ones while the people on the farms feel they are forgotten by both.

All know that sympathy is usually temporary as the world moves on and the logistical exercise of repairs, insurance and getting the cash back into the house to bring back balance is a task that is self reliant with the support of a few friends as other issues will be on the news.

However, support during the crisis is overwhelming and genuine. Help just turns up as neighbours see people needing help, neighbours being anybody who see it in their heart to help. Teams of people swarm around houses to try and protect them from the fact that they know that the level of the house is below the oncoming flood. Miraculously some endeavours against all the odds succeed while others stand testament to a forlorn struggle.

The media look for the picture or the line that sells the story and we are happy, generally, to deliver it in the belief that it raises the prospect of public support. The media look for the hero or the rogue and if they cannot find it they will create one for you. Public figures, such as myself, have to show their wares of public service as you will be more noticed by your absence than by your participation, and of course this leads to a symbiotic, sometimes parasitic, relationship with those that hold the keys to the nightly news.

The most incongruous issue during the flood was watching the opening of Federal Parliament. It could have been happening on the moon, as it was so totally irrelevant to what was going on in the diluvium landscape that currently surrounds us. It is sobering to sit with others on their lounge in front of their TV and see how they see us. They giggle, laugh, frown and then say in the middle of the scripted punch line, ”Oh I better serve dinner; want a beer?”

Surely they should have more respect; don’t they realise we are vastly more important than curried sausages? All those media advisers and news producers being bumped by curried sausages. I am listening to a cacophony; the river, ominously loud at the window, Chris Uhlmann throwing to Heather Hewitt on TV and the clang of cutlery in the kitchen as my host and other flood refugees have left the TV to an empty lounge and all have moved to talk about other things in the kitchen.

The Balonne River will hit 14m overnight and houses will sit silently in the moonlight with the river running through them. Ladies will cry with frustration and sit with their husbands and partners and ask where the money will come from this time to repair the damage and bring back balance. Wayne Swan is talking in the background, something about the NBN.

A Twitter friend this evening described your humble blogger as “pensive”:


Adjective: Engaged in, involving, or reflecting deep or serious thought.

Synonyms: thoughtful – reflective – wistful – meditative

I would suggest that the above essay demonstrates this to be an attribute clearly shared by the good … and eloquent … Senator Joyce.

A man who, after sending his own family on to safety, has stayed behind to help his townsfolk, and opened his own home as a refuge for emergency services and those in need:

On watch: Senator Barnaby Joyce keeps an eye on a temporary levee at the flood waters in his home town of St George, missing the start of the political year in Canberra. | Source: Weekly Times Now

The out-of-control kindergarten we call “Parliament” resumed this week, did it?

Parliament be damned!

Barnaby for PM.

US Government Confirms Link Between Earthquakes And Hydraulic Fracturing

13 Nov

From what your humble blogger has read, it appears that Barnaby Joyce is one of the few politicians in the country to adopt a commonsense position on the increasingly heated Coal Seam Gas debate.

Unlike others who have sought political advantage by jumping boots and all into one or the other of the opposing camps, Senator Joyce has instead, typically, taken the pragmatic view.

That we need to be cautious, and more thoroughly investigate the science, before taking any unnecessary risks with the environment and in particular, with our vital “food bowls” (ie, alleged threats to aquifers, prime agricultural land).

Now this from Oilprice.com:

On 5 November an earthquake measuring 5.6 rattled Oklahoma and was felt as far away as Illinois.

Until two years ago Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year, but in 2010, 1,047 quakes shook the state.


In Lincoln County, where most of this past weekend’s seismic incidents were centered, there are 181 injection wells, according to Matt Skinner, an official from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the agency which oversees oil and gas production in the state.

Cause and effect?

The practice of injecting water into deep rock formations causes earthquakes, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey have concluded.

The U.S. natural gas industry pumps a mixture of water and assorted chemicals deep underground to shatter sediment layers containing natural gas, a process called hydraulic fracturing, known more informally as “fracking.” While environmental groups have primarily focused on fracking’s capacity to pollute underground water, a more ominous byproduct emerges from U.S. government studies – that forcing fluids under high pressure deep underground produces increased regional seismic activity.

As the U.S. natural gas industry mounts an unprecedented and expensive advertising campaign to convince the public that such practices are environmentally benign, U.S. government agencies have determined otherwise.

According to the U.S. Army’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal website, the RMA drilled a deep well for disposing of the site’s liquid waste after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “concluded that this procedure is effective and protective of the environment.” According to the RMA, “The Rocky Mountain Arsenal deep injection well was constructed in 1961, and was drilled to a depth of 12,045 feet” and 165 million gallons of Basin F liquid waste, consisting of “very salty water that includes some metals, chlorides, wastewater and toxic organics” was injected into the well during 1962-1966.

Why was the process halted? “The Army discontinued use of the well in February 1966 because of the possibility that the fluid injection was “triggering earthquakes in the area,” according to the RMA. In 1990, the “Earthquake Hazard Associated with Deep Well Injection–A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” study of RMA events by Craig Nicholson, and R.I. Wesson stated simply, “Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established.”

Twenty-five years later, “possibility” and ‘established” changed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s July 2001 87 page study, “Technical Program Overview: Underground Injection Control Regulations EPA 816-r-02-025,” which reported, “In 1967, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) determined that a deep, hazardous waste disposal well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was causing significant seismic events in the vicinity of Denver, Colorado.”

There is a significant divergence between “possibility,” “established” and “was causing,” and the most recent report was a decade ago. Much hydraulic fracturing to liberate shale oil gas in the Marcellus shale has occurred since.

According to the USGS website, under the undated heading, “Can we cause earthquakes? Is there any way to prevent earthquakes?” the agency notes, “Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few locations in the United States, Japan, and Canada.

The cause was injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal and secondary recovery of oil, and the use of reservoirs for water supplies. Most of these earthquakes were minor. The largest and most widely known resulted from fluid injection at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver, Colorado. In 1967, an earthquake of magnitude 5.5 followed a series of smaller earthquakes. Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established.”

Note the phrase, “Once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established.”

So both the U.S Army and the U.S. Geological Survey over fifty years of research confirm on a federal level that that “fluid injection” introduces subterranean instability and is a contributory factor in inducing increased seismic activity.” How about “causing significant seismic events?”

Fast forward to the present.

Overseas, last month Britain’s Cuadrilla Resources announced that it has discovered huge underground deposits of natural gas in Lancashire, up to 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in all.

On 2 November a report commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing was responsible for two tremors which hit Lancashire and possibly as many as fifty separate earth tremors overall. The British Geological Survey also linked smaller quakes in the Blackpool area to fracking. BGS Dr. Brian Baptie said, “It seems quite likely that they are related,” noting, “We had a couple of instruments close to the site and they show that both events occurred near the site and at a shallow depth.”

But, back to Oklahoma. Austin Holland’s August 2011 report, “Examination of Possibly Induced Seismicity from Hydraulic Fracturing in the Eola Field, Garvin County, Oklahoma” Oklahoma Geological Survey OF1-2011, studied 43 earthquakes that occurred on 18 January, ranging in intensity from 1.0 to 2.8 Md (milliDarcies.) While the report’s conclusions are understandably cautious, it does state, “Our analysis showed that shortly after hydraulic fracturing began small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located.”

Sensitized to the issue, the oil and natural gas industry has been quick to dismiss the charges and deluge the public with a plethora of televisions advertisements about how natural gas from shale deposits is not only America’s future, but provides jobs and energy companies are responsible custodians of the environment.

It seems likely that Washington will eventually be forced to address the issue, as the U.S. Army and the USGS have noted a causal link between the forced injection of liquids underground and increased seismic activity. While the Oklahoma quake caused a deal of property damage, had lives been lost, the policy would most certainly have come under increased scrutiny from the legal community.

While polluting a local community’s water supply is a local tragedy barely heard inside the Beltway, an earthquake ranging from Oklahoma to Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas is an issue that might yet shake voters out of their torpor, and national elections are slightly less than a year away.

%d bloggers like this: