Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Free Article Join Over 1 Million Premium Members And Get More In-Depth Stock Guidance and Research

Cornell University Flunks Fracking

By David Smith - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 10:25PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Hydraulic fracturing finishes behind both coal and wrestling at Cornell.

It's been a big year for Cornell University. Its Big Red wrestling team spent lots of time atop the nation's rankings -- a tall hill to climb for an Ivy League school in any sport. Now, the university is garnering all sorts of attention for a research report it just released on the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

The research was conducted by a team led by Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell, which sits above the Marcellus shale, a big shale formation that runs beneath much of New York and Pennsylvania. Companies such as Chesapeake (NYSE: CHK), Ultra Petroleum (NYSE: UPL), EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG), and Range Resources (NYSE: RRC) have produced substantial amounts of shale gas from the Marcellus.

The Cornell research has led to the first peer-reviewed report on methane emissions from unconventional gas. It resulted from comparisons of estimated contamination for shale gas, conventional gas, both surface- and deep-mined coal, and diesel oil.

In summarizing his group's findings, Howarth said, "The take-home message of our study is that, if you do an integration of 20 years following the development of the gas, shale gas is worse than conventional gas and is, in fact, worse than coal and worse than oil."

The main culprit in hydraulic fracturing is methane, the primary component of natural gas. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, tends to leak into the atmosphere during the fracking process.

The group zeroed in on shale gas for specific reasons, according to research team member Tony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering: "We are highlighting unconventional gas because it is a contemporary problem for us in upstate New York, and because there is a big difference between developing gas from an unconventional well and a conventional well, for the mere reason that unconventional wells are bigger."

It's logical to expect similar environmental concerns to span the globe soon. For instance, gas has recently flowed from a shale well in India. And in Europe, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) has concessions in Germany and Poland, Chevron (NYSE: CVX) is also in Poland, and Total (NYSE: TOT) has a presence in Denmark and France.

Back in New York, however, alluding to the low ranking of shale gas versus the other fossil fuels against which it was tested, Howarth said, "We are not advocating for more coal or oil, but rather to move to a truly green, renewable future as quickly as possible."

That's clearly something we'd all like to have occur. But for now, reality dictates that the likes of ExxonMobil and Chesapeake will lead the energy parade for many years -- if not decades -- to come.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

EOG Resources, Inc. Stock Quote
EOG Resources, Inc.
EOG
$90.56 (3.41%) $2.99
Chesapeake Energy Corporation Stock Quote
Chesapeake Energy Corporation
CHKA.Q
Range Resources Corporation Stock Quote
Range Resources Corporation
RRC
$18.69 (2.08%) $0.38
Ultra Petroleum Corp. Stock Quote
Ultra Petroleum Corp.
UPL
Chevron Corporation Stock Quote
Chevron Corporation
CVX
$117.92 (1.48%) $1.72
Exxon Mobil Corporation Stock Quote
Exxon Mobil Corporation
XOM
$62.27 (1.12%) $0.69
TotalEnergies Stock Quote
TotalEnergies
TTE
$49.44 (0.63%) $0.31

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
633%
 
S&P 500 Returns
140%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 12/08/2021.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Our Most Popular Articles

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with the Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from the Motley Fool's premium services.