21 Reasons (why “natural gas” stinks)

Shale gas infrastructure has taken on epic dimensions across the US within the last 15 years. What are the impacts? Because information about this infrastructure is scattered, technical and boring, we created a series of visual arguments, based on current scientific findings.

Cited Sources:
(studies based on scientific method, not industry PR)

#1: Gas makes global warming worse. 

“Greenhouse Gas.” Wikipedia, 2 Feb. 2020. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Greenhouse_gas&oldid=938733733.

“Study: Fracking Prompts Global Spike in Atmospheric Methane.” Cornell Chronicle, https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2019/08/study-fracking-prompts-global-spike-atmospheric-methane. Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.

Howarth, Robert. “Methane Emissions and Climatic Warming Risk from Hydraulic Fracturing and Shale Gas Development: Implications for Policy.” Energy and Emission Control Technologies, Oct. 2015, p. 45. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.2147/EECT.S61539.

Chemical Composition of Natural Gas – Union Gas. https://www.uniongas.com/about-us/about-natural-gas/chemical-composition-of-natural-gas. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

#2: Two thirds of so-called “natural gas” comes from fracking.

Hydraulically Fractured Wells Provide Two-Thirds of U.S. Natural Gas Production – Today in Energy – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=26112#. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

February 10, Marc Lallanilla-Live Science Contributor, and 2018. “Facts About Fracking.” Livescience.Com, https://www.livescience.com/34464-what-is-fracking.html. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

US EPA National Center for Environmental Assessment, Immediate Office. Hydraulic Fracturing For Oil And Gas: Impacts From The Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle On Drinking Water Resources In The United States (Final Report). https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/hfstudy/recordisplay.cfm?deid=332990. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

#3: Groundwater contamination affects homeowners, farms and wildlife. 

“Hidden Data Suggests Fracking Created Widespread, Systemic Impact in Pennsylvania.” PUBLIC HERALD, 23 Jan. 2017, https://publicherald.org/hidden-data-suggests-fracking-created-widespread-systemic-impact-in-pennsylvania/.

News, Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health. “Poor Communities Bear Greatest Burden from Fracking.” Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/poor-communities-bear-greatest-burden-from-fracking/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.


#4: Fracking isn’t regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Energy Policy Act of 2005.” Wikipedia, 24 Nov. 2019. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Energy_Policy_Act_of_2005&oldid=927816393.

“Natural Gas Provided False Promise, Deception — Severe Health Problems From ‘Natural’ Gas.” CleanTechnica, 13 Jan. 2020, https://cleantechnica.com/2020/01/12/natural-gas-provided-false-promise-deception-severe-health-problems-from-natural-gas/.

Fracking’s Toxic Loophole. Environmental Integrity Project, 22 Oct. 2014, https://environmentalintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2014-10_Frackings_Toxic_Loophole.pdf.

#5: Drilling wastewater is often left in above-ground pits, which leak.

“As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater.” Yale E360, https://e360.yale.edu/features/as_fracking_booms_growing_concerns_about_wastewater. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

“Study Finds Health Threats from Oil and Gas Wastewater Spread on Roads.” StateImpact Pennsylvania, 31 May 2018, https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2018/05/31/study-finds-health-threats-from-oil-and-gas-wastewater-spread-on-roads/.

Nobel, Justin. “America’s Radioactive Secret.” Rolling Stone, 21 Jan. 2020, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/oil-gas-fracking-radioactive-investigation-937389/.

#6: The entire shale gas delivery infrastructure leaks methane.

Worden, John R., et al. “Reduced Biomass Burning Emissions Reconcile Conflicting Estimates of the Post-2006 Atmospheric Methane Budget.” Nature Communications, vol. 8, no. 1, Dec. 2017, pp. 1–11. www.nature.com, doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02246-0.

“Atmospheric Methane Levels Are Going Up—And No One Knows Why.” Wired. www.wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/atmospheric-methane-levels-are-going-up-and-no-one-knows-why/. Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.

#7: Compressor stations emit tons of CO2 every year. 

US EPA, OAR. “Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.” US EPA, 28 Aug. 2015, https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator.

Optical Gas Imaging in the Oil and Gas Industry. IR Cameras LLC, 2015.

#8: These emissions also contain tons of hazardous air pollutants.

(US EPA) Emissions from various processes and operations at oil and natural gas production facilities and natural gas transmission and storage facilities typically contain 5 different HAPs: benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and mixed xylenes, and n-hexane. https://www.epa.gov/stationary-sources-air-pollution/natural-gas-transmission-and-storage-facilities-national-emission

#9: Compressor stations regularly have “blowdowns”.

THE LOWDOWN ON GAS COMPRESSOR BLOWDOWN: THE DIRTY TRUTH OF UNREPORTABLE EMISSIONS – Metropolitan Engineering Consulting & Forensics Services. https://sites.google.com/site/metropolitanenvironmental/the-lowdown-on-gas-compressor-blowdown-the-dirty-truth-of-unreportable-emissions. Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.

#10: Forests are cut down for new gas infrastructure. 

“Bringing the Forest Back after Shale Gas.” StateImpact Pennsylvania, 7 Sept. 2018, https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2018/09/07/bringing-the-forest-back-after-shale-gas/.

Impacts, Pipeline. Highland Compressor May 28, 2018. 2018. Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/273185529.

Kelso, Matt, and BA. “Forest Fragmentation and O&G Development in PA’s Susquehanna Basin.” FracTracker Alliance, 6 June 2017, https://www.fractracker.org/2017/06/forest-fragmentation-og-development-pas-susquehanna-basin/.

#11: Gas pipelines endanger wildlife through habitat destruction. 

Impacts, Pipeline. Shagbark Hickory Trees along VLC Pipeline Route. 2018. Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/249754856.

Sane Energy. “YOU ARE HERE.” 

https://www.youareheremap.org. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

(Ecological Services | Energy Technologies and Impacts | Oil and Gas Pipelines)


#12: Private property can be seized by the government for a pipeline.

“Federal or FERC Pipeline Condemnation or Eminent Domain.” Rothman Gordon, 11 Dec. 2017, https://www.rothmangordon.com/federal-or-ferc-pipeline-condemnation-or-eminent-domain/.

Sainato, Michael. “How Eminent Domain Is Blighting Farmers in Path of Gas Pipeline.” The Guardian, 28 May 2019. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/28/how-eminent-domain-is-blighting-farmers-in-path-of-gas-pipeline.

#13: Gas development de-stabilizes land.

University, Stanford. “Small Quakes at Fracking Sites May Indicate Bigger Tremors to Come.” Stanford News, 12 Dec. 2017, https://news.stanford.edu/2017/12/12/small-earthquakes-fracking-sites-may-indicate-bigger-tremors-come/.

Maykuth, Andrew. “PUC Orders Sunoco Pipeline Shutdown after Sinkholes Expose Bare Pipe near Exton.” Https://Www.Inquirer.Com, https://www.inquirer.com/philly/business/energy/puc-orders-sunoco-mariner-pipeline-shutdown-sinkholes-chester-county-exton-20180307.html. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

“‘It’s Crazy, Man’: Sinkholes, Sunoco’s Pipeline Inspection Stir Safety Fears in Chester County.” StateImpact Pennsylvania, 9 Mar. 2018, https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2018/03/09/its-crazy-man-sinkholes-sunocos-pipeline-inspection-stir-safety-fears-in-chester-county/.

#14: Pipelines regularly leak and explode.

Restuccia, Rew, and Elana Schor. “‘Pipelines Blow up and People Die.’” POLITICO, https://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/the-little-pipeline-agency-that-couldnt-117147.html. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

#15: Dark money for fossil fuel profits ensures little oversight of the industry.

Oil & Gas | OpenSecrets. https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E01. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

Metts, Stephen. “The Kentucky Enbridge Pipeline Explosion: Everyday Risk Buried in American Backyards.” Medium, 18 Aug. 2019, https://medium.com/@mettss/the-kentucky-enbridge-pipeline-explosion-everyday-risk-buried-in-american-backyards-21dbc44df782.

#16: Pipeline developments are gigs, not jobs.

Christopherson, Susan. “The False Promise of Fracking and Local Jobs.” The Conversation, http://theconversation.com/the-false-promise-of-fracking-and-local-jobs-36459. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

Food & Water Watch. Exposing the Oil and Gas Industry’s False Jobs Promise for Shale Gas Development. 2011, https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/False%20Jobs%20Promise%20Report%20Nov%202011.pdf.

Services, STI Group-Industrial, Midstream &. Fabrication. “Compressor Stations: What They Do, How They Work, and Why The Are Important.” STI Group – Industrial, Midstream & Fabrication Services, 21 Jan. 2014, https://setxind.com/midstream/compressor-stations-what-how-why/.

#17: Communities of color are disproportionately impacted. 

News, Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health. “Poor Communities Bear Greatest Burden from Fracking.” Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/poor-communities-bear-greatest-burden-from-fracking/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

“NAACP | Fumes Across the Fence-Line, A New Study by NAACP, Clean Air Task Force, and National Medical Association.” NAACP, 14 Nov. 2017, https://www.naacp.org/latest/fumes-across-fence-line-new-study-naacp-clean-air-task-force-national-medical-association/.

#18: Fracked gas is sent overseas to make cheap plastics.

EIA Expects U.S. Net Natural Gas Exports to Almost Double by 2021 – Today in Energy – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=42575. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

Carpenter, Zoë. The Toxic Consequences of America’s Plastics Boom. Mar. 2019. www.thenation.com, https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/plastics-pollution-crisis-fracking-petrochemicals/.

“Plastic and Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet.” Center for International Environmental Law, https://www.ciel.org/plasticandclimate/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

#19: The gas industry depends on government welfare.

“Oil and Gas Subsidies: Overview.” Taxpayers for Common Sense, 14 Nov. 2008, https://www.taxpayer.net/energy-natural-resources/oil-and-gas-subsidies-overview1/.

Ellsmoor, James. “United States Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education.” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/06/15/united-states-spend-ten-times-more-on-fossil-fuel-subsidies-than-education/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

Coady, David, et al. “How Large Are Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies?” World Development, vol. 91, Mar. 2017, pp. 11–27. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.10.004.

#20: The gas industry has a lower tax rate than you do.

“Corporate Tax Avoidance in the First Year of the Trump Tax Law.” ITEP, https://itep.org/corporate-tax-avoidance-in-the-first-year-of-the-trump-tax-law/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

Palmer, Barclay. “How Oil Companies Pay Such Low Taxes.” Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011216/understanding-how-oil-companies-pay-taxes.asp. Accessed 7 Feb. 2020.

#21: Gas is not a renewable source of energy. 

“U.S. Shale’s Glory Days Are Numbered.” OilPrice.Com, https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/US-Shales-Glory-Days-Are-Numbered.html. Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.

Aronoff, Kate. “Fossil Fuels Aren’t Even a Very Good Investment.” The New Republic, Feb. 2020. The New Republic, https://newrepublic.com/article/156487/fossil-fuels-arent-even-good-investment.

Inman, Mason. “Natural Gas: The Fracking Fallacy.” Nature News, vol. 516, no. 7529, Dec. 2014, p. 28. www.nature.com, doi:10.1038/516028a.Patzek, Tad W., et al. “Gas Production in the Barnett Shale Obeys a Simple Scaling Theory.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 110, no. 49, Dec. 2013, p. 19731, doi:10.1073/pnas.1313380110.

Visualizing Pipeline Impacts





Video credits:

Director: Jess Irish

Voice: Nova Moonhawk

Video editing: Rozi Zhu

Graphics: Aim Duangratana, Rozi Zhu, Elena Gold

Video footage: Jess Irish, Earthworks

Research: Jess Irish, Stephen Metts

Additional graphics: Inspectipedia, Option G, Environmental Protection Agency, Oil Change International.