Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying

Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying

Polluters, as all those big energy producers (Big Oils, OPEC members and non members alike) are labelled, appeared to be ‘undermining’ UN climate Paris agreement. In effect, Oil, Gas and Coal world giants are exploiting a lack of conflict-of-interest protection at UN climate talks to push for continued fossil fuel use despite its contribution to catastrophic climate change through expensive lobbying campaigns because as it happens these oil, gas and coal giants could stand to waste trillions in a moderate world climate change. Patrick Galey elaborates on Phys.org.

Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

By Patrick Galey
The five biggest publicly listed oil and gas majors made profits of $55 billion in 2018
The five biggest publicly listed oil and gas majors made profits of $55 billion in 2018

The five largest publicly listed oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion since the 2015 Paris climate deal on public relations or lobbying that is “overwhelmingly in conflict” with the landmark accord’s goals, a watchdog said Friday.

Despite outwardly committing to support the Paris agreement and its aim to limit global temperature rises, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total spend a total of $200 million a year on efforts “to operate and expand fossil fuel operations,” according to InfluenceMap, a pro-transparency monitor.

Two of the companies—Shell and Chevron—said they rejected the watchdog’s findings.

“The fossil fuel sector has ramped up a quite strategic programme of influencing the climate agenda,” InfluenceMap Executive Director Dylan Tanner told AFP.

“It’s a continuum of activity from their lobby trade groups attacking the details of regulations, controlling them all the way up, to controlling the way the media thinks about the oil majors and climate.”

The report comes as oil and gas giants are under increasing pressure from shareholders to come clean over how greener lawmaking will impact their business models.

As planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions hit their highest levels in human history in 2018, the five companies wracked up total profits of $55 billion.

At the same time, the International Panel on Climate Change—composed of the world’s leading climate scientists—issued a call for a radical drawdown in fossil fuel use in order to hit the 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) cap laid out in the Paris accord.

InfluenceMap looked at accounts, lobbying registers and communications releases since 2015, and alleged a large gap between the climate commitments companies make and the action they take.

It said all five engaged in lobbying and “narrative capture” through direct contact with lawmakers and officials, spending millions on climate branding, and by employing trade associations to represent the sector’s interests in policy discussions.

“The research reveals a trend of carefully devised campaigns of positive messaging combined with negative policy lobbying on climate change,” it said.

It added that of the more than $110 billion the five had earmarked for capital investment in 2019, just $3.6bn was given over to low-carbon schemes.

Oil companies and climate change
Forecast combined capital spending in 2019 by the major oil companies – BP, Total, Shell, Chervron, ExxonMobil – on oil and gas and low carbon projects and spending on lobbying and branding.

The report came one day after the European Parliament was urged to strip ExxonMobil lobbyists of their access, after the US giant failed to attend a hearing where expert witnesses said the oil giant has knowingly misled the public over climate change.

“How can we accept that companies spending hundreds of millions on lobbying against the EU’s goal of reaching the Paris agreement are still granted privileged access to decision makers?” said Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory’s climate policy researcher, who was not involved in the InfluenceMap report.

The report said Exxon alone spent $56 million a year on “climate branding” and $41 million annually on lobbying efforts.

In 2017 the company’s shareholders voted to push it to disclose what tougher emissions policies in the wake of Paris would mean for its portfolio.

US donations

With the exception of France’s Total, each oil major had largely focused climate lobbying expenditure in the US, the report said.

Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.

AFP contacted all five oil and gas companies mentioned in the report for comment.

“We disagree with the assertion that Chevron has engaged in ‘climate-related branding and lobbying’ that is ‘overwhelmingly in conflict’ with the Paris Agreement,” said a Chevron spokesman.

“We are taking action to address potential climate change risks to our business and investing in technology and low carbon business opportunities that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

A spokeswoman for Shell—which the report said spends $49 million annually on climate lobbying—said it “firmly rejected” the findings.

“We are very clear about our support for the Paris Agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy,” they told AFP.

BP, ExxonMobil and Total did not provide comment to AFP.

Explore further: Money talks when trying to influence climate change legislation

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-03-energy-giants-spent-1bn-climate.html#jCp

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Fossil-fuel Executives are Mass Murderers

Fossil-fuel Executives are Mass Murderers

It isn’t hyperbole to say that fossil-fuel executives are mass murderers. We should put them on trial for crimes against humanity.

It’s Time to Try Fossil-Fuel Executives for Crimes Against Humanity

By Kate Aronoff


Then–US secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, looks on during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on October 30, 2017 in Washington DC. Drew Angerer / Getty

The fossil-fuel industry is lawyering up.

To date, nine cities have sued the fossil industry for climate damages. California fisherman are going after oil companies for their role in warming the Pacific Ocean, a process that soaks the Dungeness crabs they harvest with a dangerous neurotoxin. Former acting New York state attorney general Barbara Underwood has opened an investigation into whether ExxonMobil has misled its shareholders about the risks it faces from climate change, a push current Attorney General Leticia James has said she is eager to keep up. Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey opened an earlier investigation into whether Exxon defrauded the public by spreading disinformation about climate change, which various courts — including the Supreme Court — have refused to block despite the company’s pleas. And in Juliana vs. U.S., young people have filed suit against the government for violating their constitutional rights by pursuing policies that intensify global warming, hitting the dense ties between Big Oil and the state.

These are welcome attempts to hold the industry responsible for its role in warming our earth. It’s time, however, to take this series of legal proceedings to the next level: we should try fossil-fuel executives for crimes against humanity.

Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Just one hundred fossil fuel producers — including privately held and state-owned companies — have been responsible for 71 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions released since 1988, emissions that have already killed at least tens of thousands of people through climate-fueled disasters worldwide.

Green New Deal advocates have been right to focus on the myriad ways that decarbonization can improve the lives of working-class Americans. But an important complement to that is holding those most responsible for the crisis fully accountable. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes clear to fossil-fuel executives that they could face consequences beyond vanishing profits.

More immediately, a push to try fossil-fuel executives for crimes against humanity could channel some much-needed populist rage at the climate’s 1 percent, and render them persona non grata in respectable society — let alone Congress or the UN, where they today enjoy broad access. Making people like Exxon CEO Darren Woods or Shell CEO Ben van Beurden well known and widely reviled would put names and faces to a problem too often discussed in the abstract. The climate fight has clear villains. It’s long past time to name and shame them.

Left unchecked, the death toll of climate change could easily creep up into the hundreds of millions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in turn unleashing chaos and suffering that’s simply impossible to project. An independent report commissioned by twenty governments in 2012 found that climate impacts are already causing an estimated four hundred thousand deaths per year.

Counting a wider range of casualties attributed to burning fossil fuels — air pollution, indoor smoke, occupational hazards, and skin cancer — that figure jumps to nearly 5 million a year. By 2030, annual climate and carbon-related deaths are expected to reach nearly 6 million. That’s the rough equivalent of one Holocaust every year, which in just a few short years could surpass the total number of people killed in World War II. All caused by the fossil-fuel industry.

Knowing full well the deadly consequences of continued drilling, the individuals at the helm of fossil-fuel companies each day choose to seek out new reserves to burn as quickly as possible to keep their shareholders happy. They use every possible tool — and they have many — to sabotage regulatory action.

That we need to instead strip fossil fuels from the global economy isn’t up for debate. Without the increasingly distant-seeming deployment of speculative, so-called negative emissions technologies, coal usage will have to decline by 97 percent, oil by 87 percent, and gas by 74 percent by 2050 for us to have a halfway decent shot at keeping warming below 1.5 degrees celsius. That’s what it will take to avert pervasive, catastrophic climate impacts that will destabilize the very foundations of society. (Keeping warming to a more dangerous 2.0 degrees celsius will require decarbonization that’s almost as abrupt.)

recent report by Oil Change International detailing the climate costs of continued drilling lays the problem out in simple terms: either we embark on a managed decline of the fossil-fuel industry, or we face economic and ecological ruin. Simply put, the business model of the fossil-fuel industry is incompatible with the continued existence of anything we might recognize as human civilization.

Barring a major course correction, that business model — and more specifically, the executives who have designed and executed it — will be responsible for untold suffering within many of our lifetimes, with the youngest and poorest among us bearing a disproportionate burden, along with people of color and residents of the Global South.

As recent research and reporting have documented, some of the world’s biggest polluters have known for decades about the deadly threat of global warming and the role their products play in fueling it. Some companies began research into climate change as early as the 1950s. These days, none can claim not to know the mortal danger posed by their ongoing extraction.

Literally a Crime Against Humanity

Technically speaking, what fossil-fuel companies do isn’t genocide. Low-lying islands and communities around the world are and will continue to be the worst hit by climate impacts.

Still, the case against the fossil-fuel industry is not that their executives are targeting specific “national, ethnical, racial, or religious” groups for annihilation, per the Rome Statute, which enumerates the various types of human rights abuses that can be heard before the International Criminal Court. Rather, the fossil industry’s behavior constitutes a Crime Against Humanity in the classical sense: “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack,” including murder and extermination. Unlike genocide, the UN clarifies, in the case of crimes against humanity,

it is not necessary to prove that there is an overall specific intent. It suffices for there to be a simple intent to commit any of the acts listed…The perpetrator must also act with knowledge of the attack against the civilian population and that his/her action is part of that attack.

Fossil-fuel executives may not have intended to destroy the world as we know it. And climate change may not look like the kinds of attacks we’re used to. But they’ve known what their industry is doing to the planet for a long time, and the effects are likely to be still more brutal if the causes are allowed to continue.

Read more in the original document.

Why we need to stop using Fossil Fuels

Why we need to stop using Fossil Fuels

Why We Need to Stop Using Fossil Fuels? Understanding the True Impact

By Sara Haddou Amar | November 15, 2018

Fossil fuels have a wide range of applications including generation of electricity, transport fuels, making products like plastics, cosmetics, and even certain medicines. But why scientists and environmentalist are fighting to end the use of fossil fuels and promoting solar and wind energy instead? The damage that fossil fuel cause to the environment is affecting the entire ecosystem. The impact is disastrous and haunting for the health of our planet. These damages are in some cases easy to see and evaluate such as pollution and land degradation. However, the damage can take various forms and be hidden and difficult to measure such as asthma and cancer or even the impact on sea level rise.

Environmental impact of fossil fuels

In order to better understand the environmental impact of fossil fuels, it is essential to be aware of the production and transmission systems of this industry. In fact, fossil fuels are limited natural resources and the human being will eventually be forced to find another source of energy. The fossil fuels include crude oil, coal, natural gas or heavy oils, which are made up of partially or completely decomposed plants and animals. These plants and animals died millions of years ago and, over long periods of time, they became a part of the earth’s crust and were exposed to heat and pressure which, through carbon chemistry, turned them into fossil fuels and sources of energy for people.

Fossil fuels, when burnt, release gases and particles, which can cause pollution if not managed correctly. Carbon dioxide, one of the gases released from burning fossil fuels is one of the major contributors to global warming.

Rapidly changing Earth

The environmental impact of the production, transmission and consumption of fossil fuel energy can be clearly noticed in the recent statistical reports on climate change. Our planet is rapidly changing. February 2016 was the warmest February since record keeping began in 1880, and was the warmest month in recorded history (in terms of its deviation from average). May 2016, the warmest May on record, was the 13th consecutive record-breaking month.

The impact of fossil fuel industry can be visualized during its whole supply chain network (85% of the CO2 emissions come from fossil fuel combustion). According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the extraction processes can generate air and water pollution, and harm local communities, transportation fuels from the mine or oil well can cause air pollution and lead to serious accidents and spills.

The burning process of fuels emits toxins and global warming emissions. The whole procedure of fossil fuel produces a hazardous waste that harms public health and the environment we live in.

Consequences on sustainable development

The fossil fuel industry including coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear fuels has a negative impact the biodiversity of the planet and a big factor in the climate change. Fossil fuels generates, in general, consequences on the economic, environmental and social level. In fact, according to a research study conducted by Olson and Lenzmann from the Netherlands, the impact of fossil fuels cannot be limited to the amount of CO2 emissions as it is advertised to the public.

Fossil fuels have consequences on the three pillars of sustainable development. In their paper entitled the social and economic consequences of the fossil fuel supply chain: “Fuels are resources that can be used to fill the needs of society. So it would intuitively follow that an abundance of these resources would lead to improved economies and more stable nations. But this is in fact clearly not the case for oil & gas resources. Of the 34 countries who are able to derive more than 5% of their GDP from oil exports, only 9 are ranked as stable nations”

Catastrophic risk for economy

Currently 80 percent of the global primary energy demand is based on fossil fuels and the energy system is considered the source of two thirds of global CO2 emissions in average. Unfortunately, if the current production and consumption of energy is going on the same rates, the demand will double by the year 2050 and emissions will greatly surpass the amount of carbon that can be emitted if the global average temperature rise is to be limited to 2C (according to a study by unchronicled). This level of CO2 emissions would be frightful and have disastrous climate consequences on the planet earth.

The Paris Agreement signed in December 2015 has solidified agreement that the world must address climate change and has resounded the warning that inaction on climate change carries potentially catastrophic risk for the global economy.

Conclusion

Although most governments are increasingly embracing renewable energy, fossil fuels are still the world’s dominant energy source due to their high energy density. Therefore understanding the danger of fossil fuels is important to truly measure the impact of this industry on our lives and the life of our planet. It is now essential to make a change and start elaborating a new future of energy production and transmission.

References

  1. Carol Olson and Frank Lenzmann. The social and economic consequences of the fossil fuel supply chain. MRS Energy & Sustainability: A Review Journal page 1 of 32 © Materials Research Society, 2016 doi:10.1557/mre.2016.7
  2. Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas. Union of Concerned Scientists.
  3. Andrew J.Chapman, Kenshi Itaoka Energy transition to a future low-carbon energy society in Japan’s liberalizing electricity market: Precedents, policies and factors of successful transition. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 81, Part 2, January 2018, Pages 2019-2027
  4. The Hidden Costs of Fossil Fuels. The true costs of coal, natural gas, and other fossil fuels aren’t always obvious but their impacts can be disastrous. Union of Concerned Scientists

Courtesy of ecoMENA

The latest IEA World Energy Outlook

The latest IEA World Energy Outlook

All International Energy Agency (IEA) scenarios show renewables growth won’t deliver a climate cure.

None of the scenarios in the latest IEA World Energy Outlook show renewables growing fast enough to meet global climate goals is elaborated on by Jason Deign on November 13, 2018.

Gloomy Prospects in IEA’s Latest World Energy Outlook

 

Under current policies, said the IEA this week, the world would see increasing strains on almost all aspects of energy security and “a major additional rise” in energy-related carbon emissions.

And under a new policies scenario, incorporating measures and targets already announced by governments worldwide, global energy demand would still grow by more than a quarter through 2040, leading to increased demand for oil.

Even under a sustainable development scenario, aimed at achieving the energy goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development agenda and the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement, renewables growth falls short of delivering a climate change cure. 

Instead, said the IEA, society would also need to rely on energy efficiency and largely untested technologies such as renewable hydrogen synthesis and carbon capture, utilization and storage, as well as write off current investments in new coal plants.

“Most emissions linked to energy infrastructure are already essentially locked in,” the IEA explained in a press release. “In particular, coal-fired power plants, which account for one third of energy-related CO2 emissions today, represent more than a third of cumulative locked-in emissions to 2040.” 

The situation is particularly grave in Asia, where coal plants have an average age of 11 years old and are supposed to carry on running for decades, compared to the 40-year average age of coal-fired generation assets in the U.S. and Europe, said the IEA.

In press materials, the IEA’s executive director Dr. Fatih Birol said the agency had reviewed all current and under-construction energy infrastructure around the world and found it would account for around 95 percent of all emissions permitted under international climate targets.

“This means that if the world is serious about meeting its climate targets, then, as of today, there needs to be a systematic preference for investment in sustainable energy technologies,” Birol said. 

“But we also need to be much smarter about the way that we use our existing energy system,” he said. “To be successful, this will need an unprecedented global political and economic effort.”

In the IEA’s sustainable development scenario, electrification grows strongly, but so too does the direct use of renewables such as bioenergy, solar and geothermal to provide heat and mobility.

The share of renewables in the power mix would need to rise from a quarter today to two-thirds in 2040. For heating it would need to go up from 10 percent today to 25 percent in 2040, and in transport it would need to rise from 3.5 percent to 19 percent.

The scenario foresees vast increases in wind and solar PV generation, up from 1.5 petawatt-hours a year in 2017 to 14.1 petawatt-hours in 2040. Electric vehicle adoption would also have to soar, from 9.2 million cars in 2017 to more than 933 million in 2040. 

Wind, solar and electric vehicles are all commercially viable industries, though. 

What is perhaps more worrying about the IEA’s sustainable development scenario is that it relies heavily on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), a technology which has yet to reach commercial scale and which Wood Mackenzie believes will have a “limited impact on achieving future targets.”

Under the sustainable development scenario, CCUS would have to go from capturing 22.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2017 to more than 2,364 gigatons in 2040, or more than a hundredfold increase in 23 years. 

Even organizations that stood to gain under the IEA scenarios offered guarded responses to the latest World Energy Outlook.

Noting that the IEA has shortened the length of time in its forecast at which wind would become the largest grid power source in Europe, Giles Dickson, CEO at the industry body WindEurope, said, “While it’ll be good to be No. 1 in electricity, electricity is only 24 percent of Europe’s energy.”

“To decarbonize the whole energy system, we’re going have to start getting large amounts of wind and other renewables into heating, transport and industrial processes,” he added. 

On the plus side, though, the IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook scenarios have historically been criticized for underestimating renewables growth.

The Eindhoven University of Technology researcher Auke Hoekstra, for example, has shown that World Energy Outlook reference and new policy scenarios for solar energy capacity additions have been massively beneath what has happened in real life.

Policymakers may be hoping the same is true this year. But it might be necessary not to wait too long to find out.

 

Eight factors determining the price of oil

Eight factors determining the price of oil

As put by Kimberly Amadeo in her article on The Behind-the-Scenes Role of Commodities Traders,  Oil prices are controlled by traders who bid on oil futures contracts in the commodities market. That’s why oil prices change daily. It all depends on how trading went that day.

Other entities can only affect the traders’ bidding decisions. These influencers include the U.S. government and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. They don’t control the prices because traders actually set them in the markets.

The oil futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell oil at a specific date in the future for an agreed-upon price. They are executed on the floor of a commodity exchange by traders who are registered with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Commodities have been traded for more than 100 years. The CFTC has regulated them since the 1920s in the US and by equivalent institutions in every developed and / or developing country.  It is also function of the following:

The eight factors determining the price of oil

According to the September monthly report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), in August 2018, for the first time, the bar of 100 million barrels produced per day was crossed. World oil consumption represented 97.4 million barrels per day (MBJ) in 2017 (including 57 MBJ by non-OPEC countries), equivalent to 1,127 barrels or 179,000 liters per second. Also, despite the commitments of the Paris Agreement (COP21) of December 2015 (entered into force in November 2016), global awareness for the climate does not seem to reach the oil sector. A list of eight reasons that determine the current course.

  • The first reason, as noted in international reports would be a recovery of growth for 2018, but with a slowdown forecast for 2019 and 2020. Many international experts, as well as international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, foresee a possible global crisis horizon 2020/2025 in case of acceleration of protectionist measures between the US and Europe, as well as between the US and China.  Moreover, the latest report of the IEA of October 2018 warns the countries dependent on the oil revenues, due to a change in the trajectory of growth based on a new configuration of the global energy demand (Energy efficiency, renewable energies, hydrogen inlet horizon 2030 all based on the Knowledge economy) that will impact the demand for traditional hydrocarbons.
  • The second reason is respect for the quota of each member of the OPEC as decided upon in December 2016 in Vienna with notably Saudi Arabia representing 33% of OPEC’s. It is worth noting that OPEC in its entirety represents 33% of global marketing, even though the current tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia can lead to a disagreement between unsatisfied OPEC’s members.
  • The third reason is the agreement between OPEC’s Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia; these two countries producing each more than 10 million barrels per day. Moreover, any different decisions from these two countries would impact the price of hydrocarbons downwards.
  • The fourth reason is the political situation in Saudi Arabia, the world not seeing yet evident in the action of the kingdom’s Crown prince, with the fear of internal political tensions, but above all the sale of 5% shares of the country’s largest company ARAMCO, to maintain its shares at a high level; sale that has been postponed.
  • The fifth reason is the tension in Kurdistan (this area producing about 500,000 barrels/day), declining Venezuelan production, socio-political tensions in Libya and Nigeria.
  • The sixth reason is the American president’s speech on the US having second thoughts on the agreement on Iran nuclear deal; with sanctions beginning to be applied on November 5th, 2018. This would certainly be mitigated by the European position that decided to set up a barter system to circumvent the transactions in Dollars, and the Chinese market or the Iranians can get paid in Yuan.
  • The seventh reason is the weakness of the Dollar in relation to the Euro.
  • The eighth reason is the decline or rise of US stocks, while not forgetting the Chinese stocks.

In the short term, the above eight reasons may influence the price of oil either upward or downward, with some factors being more predominant than others.  The Minister of Energy of Saudi Arabia reported on October 30th, 2018, under American pressure to raise its oil production to 12 million barrels per day against 10.7 million currently, to fill in for the Iranian production and in this case, it will be followed by Russia that does not want to lose market share.  In this hypothesis, the price of Brent should, except for a significant global crisis where the prize could fall below 60 Dollars, fluctuate between 65 and 75 Dollars, 70 Dollars a barrel, being the price of equilibrium in order not to penalise either the consumer countries or the producing ones.  The oil price went lower than $60 mainly as consequent to the massive entry of U.S. shale oil and gas with a production exceeding 10 million barrels/day.

In August 2018, according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA), the US has even turned into the world’s leading producer of oil, in front of Russia and Saudi Arabia, with 10.9 million barrels per day and this production should even exceed 11.5 million barrels per day in 2019.

Development of Shale Gas in the Algerian South-Western basins

Development of Shale Gas in the Algerian South-Western basins

In Algiers, the official press agency APS announced in a communiqué that the CEO of SONATRACH, the Algerian State oil company signed an agreement with British Petroleum and Equinor of Norway representatives on the exploration and development of Shale Gas in the Algerian South-Western basins.

Meanwhile, in the US where Shale Gas production has managed to reach unprecedented heights, INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS produced this article of Phil McKenna back on August 15, 2018 “as drillers compete for oil and natural gas, more fluids are going into and out of each fracking well. Researchers warn it’s headed for a tipping point.”

Water Use in Fracking Soars — Exceeding Rise in Fossil Fuels Produced, Study Says

By Phil McKenna

The amount of water used per well jumped as much as 770 percent between 2011 and 2016, researchers say. As fracking expands, its water and wastewater footprints are forecast to continue to balloon. Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

As the fracking boom matures, the drilling industry’s use of water and other fluids to produce oil and natural gas has grown dramatically in the past several years, outstripping the growth of the fossil fuels it produces.

A new study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances says the trend—a greater environmental toll than previously described—results from recent changes in drilling practices as drillers compete to make new wells more productive. For example, well operators have increased the length of the horizontal portion of wells drilled through shale rock where rich reserves of oil and gas are locked up.

They also have significantly increased the amount of water, sand and other materials they pump into the wells to hydraulically fracture the rock and thus release more hydrocarbons trapped within the shale.

The amount of water used per well in fracking jumped by as much as 770 percent, or nearly 9-fold, between 2011 and 2016, the study says. Even more dramatically, wastewater production in each well’s first year increased up to 15-fold over the same years.

“This is changing the paradigm in terms of what we thought about the water use,” Avner Vengosh, a geochemist at Duke University and a co-author of the study, said. “It’s a different ball game.”

Monika Freyman, a water specialist at the green business advocacy group Ceres, said that in many arid counties such as those in southern Texas, freshwater use for fracking is reaching or exceeding water use for people, agriculture and other industries combined.

“I think some regions are starting to reach those tipping points where they really have to make some pretty tough decisions on how they actually allocate these resources,” she said.

Rapid Water Expansion Started Around 2014

The study looked at six years of data on water use, as well as oil, gas and wastewater production, from more than 12,000 wells across the U.S.

According to Vengosh, the turning point toward a rapid expansion of water use and wastewater came around 2014 or 2015.

The paper’s authors calculated that as fracking expands, its water and wastewater footprints will grow much more.

Wastewater from fracking contains a mix of the water and chemicals initially injected underground and highly saline water from the shale formation deep underground that flows back out of the well. This “formation water” contains other toxics including naturally radioactive material making the wastewater a contamination risk.

The contaminated water is often disposed of by injecting it deep underground. The wastewater injections are believed to have caused thousands of relatively small-scale earthquakes in Oklahoma alone in recent years.

Projected Water Use ‘Not Sustainable’

Jean-Philippe Nicot, a senior research scientist in the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, said the recent surge in water use reported in the study concurs with similar increases he has observed in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, the largest shale oil-producing region in the country.

Nicot cautioned, however, against reading too much into estimates of future water use.

The projections used in the new study assume placing more and more wells in close proximity to each other, something that may not be sustainable, Nicot said. Other factors that may influence future water use are new developments in fracking technology that may reduce water requirements, like developing the capacity to use brackish water rather than fresh water. Increased freshwater use could also drive up local water costs in places like the Permian basin, making water a limiting factor in the future development of oil and gas production.

“The numbers that they project are not sustainable,” Nicot said. “Something will have to happen if we want to keep the oil and gas production at the level they assume will happen in 10 or 15 years.”

Phil McKenna, is a Boston-based reporter for InsideClimate News. Before joining ICN in 2016, he was a freelance writer covering energy and the environment for publications including The New York Times, Smithsonian, Audubon and WIRED. Uprising, a story he wrote about gas leaks under U.S. cities, won the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award and the 2014 NASW Science in Society Award. Phil has a master’s degree in science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was an Environmental Journalism Fellow at Middlebury College.