U.S. gas bonanza from fracking slow to spread globally


In less than a generation, the United States has soared to world leadership in extracting natural gas from shale formations by hydraulic fracturing. But as the world debates whether “fracking” is an economic boon or a budding environmental disaster, few foreign countries are following the U.S. lead.

GlobalFocusConditions unique to the United States have encouraged investment in the abundant source of low-carbon energy and boosted prospects for reducing dependence on costly and unpredictable supplies of foreign oil. Of the natural gas consumed in the United States last year, 94% came from domestic production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“The availability of large quantities of shale gas should enable the United States to consume a predominantly domestic supply of gas for many years and produce more natural gas than it consumes,” the agency reports, predicting a 29% increase in output by 2035, almost all of it from shale fracking.

The rapid advance toward self-sufficiency has made the U.S. industry both a model and a cautionary tale for other countries pondering all-in development of their shale-gas reserves.

Significant deposits of natural gas trapped in coal and shale seams have been identified in Eastern and Western Europe, Canada, Australia, China, South Africa and the cone of South America. Global energy giants like Shell and Chevron are bankrolling billions in exploration, sizing up the cost-effectiveness of replicating the U.S. boom in more remote locales with little infrastructure.

Technological advances in horizontal drilling have made it feasible to tap small pockets of gas trapped in shale layers a mile or more below the surface. Contractors bore thousands of feet down through soil, rock and water layers, then drill laterally through the shale to create a horizontal well. When sand, water and chemicals are blasted into the bore holes, the force fractures the shale, releasing gas from fissures within the sedimentary rock. The gas is captured and ferried by pipeline to distribution grids or to port facilities where it can be converted to liquefied natural gas for overseas shipment.

But the process leaves behind tons of chemical-contaminated mud. There are also reports of drinking water pollution from the chemicals and methane gas that escapes into underground reservoirs. A study last year published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documented “systematic evidence for methane contamination of drinking water associated with shale gas extraction” in the aquifers above the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the U.S. Northeast.  This spring, the U.S. Geological Survey reported “a remarkable increase” in the occurrence of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or larger that it tied to fracking operations.

This month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the Environmental Protection Agency was finding it “challenging” to inspect and enforce clean air and clean water regulations in the fast-moving fracking industry. For example, the GAO report noted, the EPA is often unable to evaluate alleged water contamination because investigators lack information about the water quality before the fracking occurred.

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Bulgaria releases computer-generated photo of bombing suspect


Bulgarian officials released a computer-generated picture Thursday of a suspect tied to the deadly July bombing of an Israeli tourist bus, an apparent accomplice to the suicide bomber.

The digital images, one with glasses, one without, show a husky man with short dark hair. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry said there was evidence that the suspect had used a fake driver’s license from Michigan, in which he appears to be wearing a long wig.

The ministry posted an image of the fake license bearing the name of Ralph William Rico on its website Thursday, urging anyone who had seen the man or had information about him to call police. "Anonymity shall be guaranteed!" it promised.

The July 18 attack killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver in the resort city of Burgas, a popular vacation destination on the Black Sea. After the bombing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said all signs pointed to Iran and Hezbollah in the attack, an accusation that Iranian officials and the Lebanon-based militant group denied.

Bulgarian authorities had earlier reported that the suicide bomber also used a fake Michigan license. Shortly after the attack, ABC News had aired an image of a license for "Jacque Felipe Martin" that used the address of a Baton Rouge casino. 

Investigators had earlier released a reconstructed image of the face of the suicide bomber, asking Interpol and its member countries to distribute the picture in the hopes of identifying the man.


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Photo: An image released by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry on Thursday shows a computer-generated image of an alleged accomplice in the killing of five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver. Credit: EPA / Bulgarian Interior Ministry

Netanyahu: Intelligence points to Hezbollah in Bulgarian bombing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he had “absolutely rock solid intelligence” that Lebanon-based Hezbollah, supported by Iran, carried out the suicide bombing in Bulgaria last week that killed seven people, including five Israelis.

Netanyahu, who blamed Iran and its agents immediately after an Israeli tour bus in the Bulgarian resort city of Burgas exploded Wednesday, didn’t provide new details supporting his allegation, saying on “Fox News Sunday” that the identity of the bomber was “being pieced together right now.”

But in appearances on Fox and CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the Israeli leader said the attack in Bulgaria, which also injured more than 30 people, was patterned in the same way as a foiled plot in Cyprus earlier in July by a Hezbollah operative.  

"You'd think, you'd surmise intelligently, that if Hezbollah, backed by Iran, did this in Cyprus a week earlier, the same modus operandi repeats itself in Bulgaria," he told CBS.

"The prime minister of Israel sees more than that," Netanyahu added. "We have unquestionable, fully substantiated intelligence that this was done by Hezbollah backed by Iran."

Iranian and Hezbollah officials have denied any role in the bombing, and no group has claimed responsibility.

The U.S. hasn’t publicly blamed Hezbollah or Iran. Bulgarian officials have said they were working closely with Israel and the United States to identify the bomber, who is believed to have carried a U.S. passport and a Michigan driver's license.

Pressed by Fox’s Chris Wallace to give hard evidence that Hezbollah was behind the  attack, Netanyahu said: “We certainly give it to the appropriate agencies, friendly agencies in the world.”

Asked about Israel’s planned response to the Bulgarian attack, or whether a retaliation would be linked to Israel’s efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu gave no specifics. Instead, he spoke about Iran’s record of terrorist attacks over the last two years and how that underscored why Iran should not be allowed to have powerful bombs.

Iran has said its nuclear program is for civilian use, and has accused Israel of orchestrating the assassination of several of its top scientists working on the country's nuclear technologies.


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Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Sunday. Credit: Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images

Bulgaria suspects suicide bomber in bus attack that killed 5 Israelis

As Israeli victims of the Bulgarian bus bombing began arriving home, security officials said they now believe that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber with a fake American passport
JERUSALEM -- As Israeli victims of the Bulgarian bus bombing began arriving home Thursday, security officials said they now believe that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber with a fake American passport.

Israel began airlifting wounded tourists from the Black Sea city of Burgas to Tel Aviv following Wednesday's blast, which killed seven people and injured more than 30 others.

Officials believe that five of the dead are Israelis, one was the bus' Bulgarian driver and the seventh was the bomber.

Bulgarian officials released a video showing a Caucasian male with long hair, dressed in short pants, tennis shoes, a baseball cap and sunglasses. He is shown loitering around the airport with a large black backpack. His remains were found on the bus, officials said.

Officials say the man was carrying what appeared to be a U.S. passport and a Michigan driver's license, both of which are believed to be forged, according to Bulgaria's Sofia News Agency. Officials told reporters Thursday that the man had been in the country for more than four days.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israel has information linking Lebanon-based Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to the attack, but he did not elaborate or provide evidence of that assertion.

Iranian and Hezbollah officials have denied any role in the bombing.

Israel and Iran have been engaged in a shadow war for nearly two years. Israel blames Iran for orchestrating bomb attacks against Israeli missions in India, Georgia and Thailand. Iran says Israel is behind the assassination of several of its top scientists working on the country's nuclear program.

Israel has threatened to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities to prevent the Tehran regime from developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.


In Bulgaria, Israel tour bus blast kills 7

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Photo: Smoke can be seen over the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, where a tour bus carrying Israeli vacationers exploded, killing at least seven people. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Israeli leader Netanyahu blames Iran for Bulgaria bus bombing


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for a Wednesday bombing attack on an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria that claimed at least six lives and injured dozens.

"In the past months we saw Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Kenya and Cyprus," Netanyahu said, adding, "This is an Iranian terror offensive that is spreading throughout the world." 

Netanyahu offered no specific evidence to back up his claim that "all signs point to Iran." There was no immediate response from Tehran. The Islamic militant group Hezbollah reportedly denied any connection to the attack.

At least six people died and more than 30 were injured when an explosion hit a bus that officials said was carrying 154 people, most of them Israeli tourists, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. The death toll was higher than that reported earlier by Israeli officials, who had said at least three people were killed.

The blast occurred at the airport in Burgas, a popular destination for Israeli vacationers. The tourists arrived from Tel Aviv on a charter flight Wednesday afternoon. Two more buses were set on fire by the blast, but those blazes were extinguished, the Bulgarian News Agency reported.

“Bulgarian authorities are working on the theory that this was a terrorist attack,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The airport was shut down as the explosion was investigated.

Israeli security officials ordered Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport to postpone flights to 11 locations in Eastern Europe, Israeli media reported.

Israel had advised citizens not to go to Bulgaria this year, warning that a terrorist attack might be in the works against Israelis there. Bulgarian authorities reportedly foiled another attempted attack this year, detecting an explosive device on a bus meant for Israeli tourists.

In his statement, Netanyahu noted that the attack fell on the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina that killed 85 people. Iran has denied involvement in that attack.


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Photo: Bulgarian medics help a wounded woman at a hospital after an explosion at Burgas airport on Wednesday. Credit: AFP/Getty Images



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