PopeWatch: Fracking

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Pope Francis has given yet another interview, this time to Viva in Argentina.



The Pope also spoke about environmental issues and how mankind continues to waste the bounty given by God. He also appeared to voice his opposition to extracting wealth from the earth at the expense of the environment. This has been taken by many to imply fracking — a controversial method of extracting gas that opponents say risks contaminating water supplies.

“When, for example, you want to make use of a mining method that extracts more than other methods, but it contaminates the water, it doesn’t matter,” he said, according to Vatican Radio’s report on the interview. “And so they go on contaminating nature. I think it’s a question that we are not facing: Humanity, in its indiscriminate use of and tyranny over nature, is it committing suicide?”

Go here to read the rest.  Well that is certainly  apocalyptic language.  PopeWatch wonders if the Pope ever ponders that his concern for unemployment and lack of economic development in poor areas of the world, may be in conflict with the strident environmentalism he seems to embrace.  In this world there are areas of absolutes, usually in regard to morality, and areas of trade offs, a classic example being between economy and ecology.  PopeWatch hopes the Pope understands this.


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  1. No, the Pope does not understand that it is access to low cost clean plentiful energy that fuels a successful and prosperous technical civilization. And he will predictably oppose the ONLY viable replacement for fossil fuel that has a high enough capacity factor to provide stable power: nuclear. No electricity kills. Just look at life expectancy in the 19th century. Coal fired electricity kills less than no electricity. Oil kills less than coal. Gas kills less than oil, fracking notwithstanding. Solar and wind kill less than gas but have capacity factors less than 30% which makes them useless for baseload power. Nuclear kills least of all (less than a dozen people died at Fukushima and none by radiation, compared to the scores that died from the earthquake and tsunami damage to petrochemical and natural gas tanks in the Chiba Prefecture). But you cannot convince these people for whom environmentalism is their religion.
    Even though I am a nuclear professional of some three and a half decades experience, I would rather have natural gas fracking than to live and die as people did in the 19th century. I wonder however if the Pope would give up his electricity in a statement to say he wouldn’t use any more of that natural gas because the electricity supply comes in large measure from that source especially in Europe, and usually from the Russians. People who know nothing about engineering and energy should shut their mouths on this topic. Argh!

  2. The communications of the pope don’t seem to have a unified message. There is always confusion. I don’t know if the confusion is in our ears or in his mouth.
    The continued incoherence seems to come from taking sound bites of the liberals and sound bites of the conservatives and trying to string them together. The thorough reading of “live and let live” and an equally through reading of “Give yourself to others” are incongruent. One being hands off, no judgment, no attempt to evangelize etc. The other says to love, to involve yourself in what is going on in another’s life etc. To Love in truth is not compatible with Live and let live.

  3. “Humanity, in its indiscriminate use of and tyranny over nature, is it committing suicide?””

    A bit dramatic. Don’t you think? I guess acknowledging the good man has done for the environment/nature would be out of line. Dear Pope, who are you to judge how we use the environment? Just asking. “Judge thy environmental sins but not sexual sins!”

    The pope has been chanting lately and frequently “No more war!” (Such a simplistic take on such a matter is usually not very effective.) He should add “No more fracking!” to his kit of persuasive arguments.

    @Paul W Primavera, What would you say to critics of nuclear energy who say the problem is what to do with the waste?

  4. Pardon my language (and my pun!), but the Pope is a “fricking fracking” ignoramus on this subject. He’s obviously listening to environmental extremists who think extracting any kind of energy source from the ground will damage the earth. The main source of anti-fracking propaganda is a documentary called GasLand. I don’t know if the Pope has ever seen this film, but it has been exposed as a big lie by several people. FrackNation, by Phelim McAleer is the best expose of the lies GasLand tells. Go to http://www.fracknation.com and get the real facts on fracking.

  5. There is no nuclear waste problem. Rather, the total amount of used nuclear fuel generated from US light water reactors is small and relatively manageable. The current high-level “waste” volume after 40 years of operation of the United States’ 100+ nuclear power plants would fill an area the size of a football field five yards deep. This is 48 to 50 thousand metric tons, assuming about 1/2 ton per fuel assembly and about 100 thousand assemblies. Of this only 5% is waste. The rest is burnable in fast neutron burner reactors (high temperature gas cooled reactors, liquid metal fast burners, molten salt thorium reactors, etc). With such reprocessing / reuse, the area of used fuel would diminish to a single row in a football field some 2.4 yards deep. Now compare the 48 to 50 thousand metric tons of used nuclear fuel, 95% of which is still burnable, with the 39 MILLION tons of toxic sludge that a Duke Energy coal fired power plant recently dumped into the Cape Fear River in North Carolina earlier this year. And consider that coal fired power plants release MORE radioactivity in the form of uranium, thorium and radium occurring naturally in coal than any nuclear power plant does. And consider that fracking natural gas releases more radioactivity from naturally occurring isotopes geologically deposited beneath the Earth’s crust than any nuclear power plant is allowed to release. We do NOT have a nuclear waste problem. We have a dumb idiot problem in politics and the clergy.
    One uranium pellet the size of your thumb nail has as much energy as 1 ton of coal and 17 thousand cubic feet of natural gas. It takes 22 railroad cars of coal every two weeks to keep a 1000 MW coal plant running, and all that waste – more radioactive than what comes from a nuke – gets dumped into the air, water and ground. A nuke refuels one third of its core once every TWO years, and pollutes neither air, nor ground, nor water.
    God deliver us from no-nothing politicians and clerics!

  6. Here is a summary of emissions and wastes from various power sources that I have posted previously:
    1000 megawatt power plant emissions.
    Sulfur Dioxide Emissions
    Coal = 70,000 tons / year
    Natural Gas = 0 tons / year
    Oil = 30,000 tons /year
    Nuclear = 0 tons / year
    Nitrogen Oxide Emissions
    Coal = 25,000 / year
    Natural Gas = 16,000 tons / year
    Oil = 14,000 tons /year
    Nuclear = 0 tons / year
    Carbon Dioxide Emissions
    Coal = 6,000,000 tons / year
    Natural Gas = 3,000,000 tons / year
    Oil = 5,000,000 tons / year
    Nuclear = 0 tons / year
    Energy Source Death Rate
    Coal – world average: 161 deaths per terawatt hour and 1410 deaths per gigawatt year
    Oil: 36 deaths per terawatt hour and 315 deaths per gigawatt year
    Natural Gas: 4 deaths per terawatt hour and 35 deaths per gigawatt year
    Biomass / Biofuel: 12 deaths per terawatt hour and 105 deaths per gigawatt year
    Solar: 0.44 deaths per terawatt hour and 3.85 deaths per gigawatt year
    Wind: 0.15 deaths per terawatt hour and 1.31 deaths per gigawatt year
    Hydro worldwide: 1.4 deaths per terawatt hour and 88 deaths per gigawatt year
    Nuclear: 0.4 deaths per terawatt hour and 35 deaths per gigawatt year
    Nuclear Used Fuel (repeat from my comment above)
    The nuclear used fuel in the United States comprises some 48 thousand metric tons. Let us put this in perspective. A single coal fired power plant on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina recently dumbed 39 million tons of toxic coal plant sludge into the environment. This toxic waste never ever decays away. The current used fuel repository in the US pales is a fraction of this coal fired power plant waste. Additionally, the sued fuel repository would occupy a volume of a football field some five yards deep. But bear in mind that only 5% of the fuel is used. 95% of the energy remains within it, and if reprocessed and reused in fast neutron burner reactors, only 2.4 years of a football field five yards deep would be required to contain the leftover ash which (unlike coal plant sludge and natural gas turbine exhaust) decays after 600 years.

  7. I also sent a letter to the USCCB and to the Diocesan Bishops of North Carolina when the USCCB came out with its statement supporting the US EPA’s new standards to reduce carbon pollution. I got ZERO response because what I wrote does not agree with their paradigm. The USCCB thinks that it can speak authoritatively about a subject on which it has ZERO technical expertise, and then ignore the subject – conversion and repentance – that should be the Church’s focus and message. I am absolutely disgusted with what passes for the Church in the United States.
    Dear Sister Walsh, Your Excellency Bishop Jugis and Your Excellency Bishop Burbidge,
    It is gratifying to see the subject of toxic air pollution from fossil fuel electrical power generation being addressed by the US Council of Catholic Bishops:
    I have worked in naval submarine nuclear propulsion and commercial nuclear power for 38 years. I have been variously a submarine reactor operator, a nuclear systems training instructor, a nuclear instrumentation and controls engineer, and a nuclear QA engineer. I can therefore state unequivocally that the solution to the difficulty of providing stable, high capacity factor electrical power to our industrial civilization without pollution is safe, clean nuclear energy. Even including Three Mile Island (which neither injured nor killed any member of the public), Chernobyl (whose RBMK design cannot be licensed in the West and whose accident due to the laws of physics are impossible at a Western light water reactor), and Fukushima (which killed less than a dozen people outright, and none from radiation), nuclear energy is safer than any other form of electrical generation, even including solar and wind:
    The tables at the following web site provide the relevant statistics on death rate normalized per terawatt hour and gigawatt year for various forms of electrical generation. Notice that nuclear is least fatal:
    I have worked on some of the newer nuclear reactor designs, including General Electric – Hitachi’s Economically Simplified Boiling Water Reactor. Please view the video at the following web link to see what I mean about this reactor design’s inherent safety:
    I have taught training courses on other designs, including CANDU heavy water reactors and Westinghouse pressurized light water reactors. The newer designs employ passive safety features that obviate the need for either operator action or electrical power backup in the event of an accident or transient. The type of events that occurred at TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima are simply not credible with these new designs.
    Additionally, unbeknownst to the majority of the public, natural gas fracking gives off more radioactivity from underground radon, and coal fired power plant pollution gives off more radioactivity from the naturally occurring uranium, thorium and radium in coal than any nuclear power plant is allowed to release under US NRC regulations.
    Lastly, the capacity factor of so-called renewables such as solar and wind is less than 30% whereas the capacity factor of nuclear is greater than 92%. The use of solar and wind always requires fossil fuel spinning reserve backup, and always despoils hundred of square miles of land area for a miniscule amount of power dwarfed by any nuclear power plant occupying a small faction of such land area. Indeed, every solar or wind farm is a natural gas polluter. The idea that natural gas is clean given its carbon emissions and the radioactivity released from fracking to obtain it, is frankly ludicrous. Only nuclear energy is clean, safe and cheap.
    Therefore, perhaps the US Council of Catholic Bishops could be persuaded to support safe, clean nuclear energy given its well-founded opposition to fossil fuel pollution.
    One other thing: used nuclear fuel from US light water and CANDU heavy water reactors cannot be used to make nuclear weapons. The fissile plutonium-239 in the fuel is too contaminated with non-fissile plutonium-240. Indeed, when North Korea tried to use a reactor (albeit an RBMK design) to make its bomb, the bomb fizzled out – it was not a militarily useful weapon. Furthermore, the best way to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is to consume weapons grade uranium-235 and plutonium-239 in nuclear reactors, making electrical energy peacefully and safely. We have a program to do that. It is called megatons to megawatts:
    Vobis gratias ago pro vestra patientia in legente meam epistulam.
    Vester Servus in Caritate Christi,
    Paul Primavera

  8. My last comment went into the moderation queue because it had a lot of referenced web links. I can’t give a lesson on 30 years of knowledge and experience in energy production in a small space, so I have to reference the appropriate material. Thanks.

  9. Somebody needs to ask Pope Francis for a peer reviewed, SCIENTIFIC, study that show cracking contaminates water. Contaminates it with WHAT??

    Now there is all kinds of environmentalist wackos/tree jiggers who yell & scream & publish bologna that says cracking contaminates water. But they are very scarce on facts.

  10. Barbara, these clerics know nothing about real science and engineering, nor do they care to know anything about real science and engineering. When they flip a light switch, they expect the lights to come on. When they adjust the thermostat, they expect the air conditioner or heater to come on as appropriate. When they turn the ignition switch in a car, they expect the engine to turn over. But they have not a clue in the world where all that energy comes from or what it takes to get them access to that energy. Each of them would be unwilling to live with the less than 30% capacity factor of solar and wind energy. Each of them pays for the gasoline for his vehicle, the natural gas for his home’s furnace, and the electricity from the transformer outside the house, not realizing the 50% of such energy comes from coal, 30% from gas, 19% from nuclear and 1% from piddling worthless solar and wind. They pay for the energy and then complain as to how it is obtained. None is willing to put his money where his mouth is. None respects the Law of the Conservation of Matter and Energy, but it is a immutable Law established by God Almighty Himself and none can disobey it regardless of their eco-wacko complaining nonsense. I have zero respect for these clerics that focus on environmental and energy issues while ignoring the fact that souls are going to hell because they neglect the Gospel of conversion and repentance. But in the end, the Laws of Physics win and they will find that out when the lights go out, the air conditioner and refrigerator stop, and the car doesn’t move any longer. Fools, the lot of them. They will freeze in the dark and whine that it’s all the fault of big business.

  11. Mr. Primavera, you know as well as I do that most of the bishops frequently blather on subjects they know nothing about. Economics is one such subject. The enviornment is another. I’m with you on nuclear power. The USA could build enough nuclear power plants so that within ten years this country would not only be self sufficient in energy, we could export energy as well.

    Fracking is big in Pennsylvania, especially so in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Most homes here use natural gas for heating, cooking and hot water, where it is, in my opinion, a superior fuel. Gasland is utter crap. Natural gas (methane) is formed by the rock formations underground in Pennsylvania. It is not uncommon for water wells in rural areas to have some methane gas. My cousin works for the Pennsylvania DCNR and is heavily involved with the gas extraction companies, to ensure regulations are met. I, for one, would love it if I could use natural gas as fuel for my car – I could fill up my car at home with a connection to my home’s natural gas supply and it’s a lot cleaner than gasoline.

    The gas is locked in shale formations (Marcellus, Utica, etc) 6,000 feet below ground level. I don’t doubt that some water wells have been disturbed, but water wells here are unreliable at best anyway due to the rock strata below the ground surface. We have plenty of water from the Three Rivers.

    Coal could be used for conversion to synthetic oil, which then can be used for aviation fuel, diesel fuel for locomotives, etc. – applications where an electric motor is not practical.

    Pope Francis has again spouted off on something about which he is totally ignorant. I pray for him (not enough) but he has a sense of hubris about him that nobody seems to be able to control.

  12. We agree, pPnguins Fan. Burning coal directly in power plants is foolish. The right thing to do is to convert power plants to nuclear and use nuclear heat to convert coal and water into liquid hydrocarbon fuel via the Fischer-Tropsch process. Alternatively nuclear heat can be used to produce methane via a similar process. Fueling automobiles off methane is a marvellous idea. In that way we can tell the Russians to asphyxiate in their gas and the Muslims to drown in their oil. We can use passively safe advanced reactors like GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR or Westinghouse’s AP-1000. Small installations can use NuScale’s small modular reactor. Fuel from these reactors can be reprocessed / recycled and consumed in GE’s liquid sodium PRISM reactor, or directly used in Canada’s CANDU heavy water reactors. Other passively safe designs include a thorium fueled molten salt reactor that was actually built and operated in the 1960s as an aircraft engine experiment and it worked. God has placed enough thorium and uranium in Earth’s crust to fuel a civilization of 12 billion people for millennia on end at the energy consumption level of the average American without environmental devastation. We do NOT have an environmental or an energy crisis. We have a crisis of greed and selfishness, and until our clerics start preaching, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” as John the Baptist did, we will continue to have the problems we got.
    As I said before, and as you can see from the statistics in my comments above, coal kills less than no electricity. Oil kills less than coal. Gas kills less than oil. Nuclear kills least of all. It’s very simple to see.
    Read what Dr. Bernard Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Pittsburg, has to say:

  13. Paul, thanks for your responses on this matter. Off topic but I have a son who is considering nuclear engineering. Do you think this is a good field to go into at this time?

  14. Tom, the world needs energy. The United Arab Emirates are building five South Korean APR-1000 reactors that are an advanced version of Combustion Engineering’s System 80+. I actually submitted my resume to go work there, but another company beat them to the punch. China plans to build scores of reactors. So does Vietnam (unbelievable!). Russia has these plans:
    While Western Europe and America sink into decay, mankind will go on. So yes, nuclear engineering has a bright future – for those who speak Arabic, Mandarin, or Russian. I encourage such a future. The power source is safe, clean, pollution free, abundant, and best of all, a threat to the corporate socialism that has so defiled Western Europe and the US. It is energy that fuels a technical civilization. Without it we can and should anticipate the life expectancy of those who lived in the 19th century.

  15. “Even though I am a nuclear professional of some three and a half decades experience, I would rather have natural gas fracking than to live and die as people did in the 19th century.”

    PWP: I will not yield the high ground to these idiots. The environmentalist wackos have tried over & over again in my state & region in the South (US) to stop fracking by yelling and screaming that the environment is being damaged, earthquakes are resulting, and drinking water is contaminated. Each time there was a brouhaha–out came the media with their cameras and reporters and interviews–out came the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (& similar EPA related orgs in other areas of the South–taking samples, testing, etc–and absolutely NOTHING was ever found by the science guys. Not once.

    The environmentalist wacko movement in this country is loaded with Socialists and Communists who are not only power hungry but are absolutely intent on bringing down the US economy & turning us into a 3rd world country. The last time I knew there was some guy in Guy, AR threatening to sue because, according to him, fracking had caused an earthquake in Guy which had caused a crack in the walls of his home. No I am not kidding. By the way, a fault line runs through our state and back in the pioneer days there was an earthquake that was so strong in our state that the Mississippi River ran the wrong direction and the energy waves in the ground caused the ground (trees and all to jump as high as the back of a buffalo. I have sat in my living room in White Co. AR and felt my house jerk and have things rattle and fall off the wall more than once. But this man is insistent that it is cracking that caused the earthquake that damaged his home!


  16. I ask for your patience with my spell check changing the word fracking into cracking. It is fracking (misspelled on purpose this time) me up. 😉

  17. Kyle wrote: I guess acknowledging the good man has done for the environment/nature would be out of line.

    Dear Kyle–don’t you realize that man is purely evil and is not capable of doing anything good for the environment/nature in the worldview of environmentalist wackos?

  18. Penguins Fan wrote: I, for one, would love it if I could use natural gas as fuel for my car – I could fill up my car at home with a connection to my home’s natural gas supply and it’s a lot cleaner than gasoline.

    Arkansas is the Saudis Arabia of natural has. We want to access it. Our current environmentalist wacko governor who is ending his last term (term limited to 8 years in any given state constitutional office in our state) keeps throwing up road blocks and the Sierra Club and company keep suing. It seems like a few years back, I was told that it would take $10 million for all of the requisite environmental studies just to get a permit to get started. We do have individual natural gas wells all over the state on private land. To my knowledge there have been 2 service stations within 100 miles of me that have natural gas pumps. There is a mechanic here in Little Rock who keeps his staff certified at top levels do that they can switch out vehicle engines from gasoline burning to natural gas burning. At one time I looked at a study which told how many cubic feet of natural gas there is thought to be under the surface of this great land of ours–the study I saw indicated that we could be completely independent if foreign oil if we were allowed to extract and process the natural gas for automobile use. Most likely related info can be found on the Internet.

  19. I concur 100% with Barbara Gordon. Environmentalism – the worship of goddess Gaia – has become the religion of today’s elite intelligentsia in the West: Canada, the US, and Western Europe. Other nations like China, Russia, India, and Arab countries do not have that problem. They have others to be sure, but they know that it is access to cheap energy which fuels a prosperous technical civilization. I was truly astounded to learn that even the UAE understands its oil and gas supplies are finite, so they established the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation to build five South Korean APR-1400 advanced pressurized water reactors at Barakah. Go to satellite imagery here to see the reactor containments being built:
    Each plant will provide 1400 MWe for a total eventual supply of 7000 MWe (that’s like two Niagara Falls). What does the United States do under Barack Hussein Obama?
    80 billion dollars or more (of which Solyndra was but a small part) have been wasted in useless, worthless twirling blades and shiny mirrors. We could have built 40 new advanced nukes for that money, and employed tens of thousands in high tech jobs. I hate what the Democrats are turning America into.

  20. How blessed we are to be able to read the writings of Paul P.
    Since some SIerra Club bashing/exposure came up; may I recommend this recent report:

    If it’s too much, just skip to the tables showing the obscene cash holdings of green groups.

    Good explanation/commenting here:

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