The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Real Target: Affordable, Abundant Natural Gas

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 21, 2011

PoliticoPro reports that a New York state advisory panel on hydraulic fracturing is taking flak from some environmentalists despite the fact a majority of the committee's members are ... environmentalists.

There's a simple explanation: Some of these folks just aren't all that interested in helping a process that will bring more natural gas - clean-burning, abundant, affordable - to U.S. Here's what David Braun, co-founder of United for Action, a New York-based anti-fracking group, told PoliticoPro:

"The environmental groups that are involved are too interested in regulating rather than serving their general purpose, which is to defend our resources, defend the people and to not push these sorts of things through."

Braun refers to hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technology that's revolutionizing access to a 100-year supply of natural gas while creating tens of thousands of jobs and fueling dramatic economic growth in parts of Pennsylvania, Texas and other states.

The guess here is that the concerns of Braun and others go deeper than hydraulic fracturing - that beneath opposition to fracking is considerable opposition to the idea that natural gas can be a game-changing energy source for the country.

That's not the way environmentalists used to feel, of course. As Reason magazine's Ronald Bailey noted in a presentation at the American Enterprise Institute in May, just a few years ago key movement figures were calling natural gas and shale gas the bridge to the "21st century energy economy" and the "new energy economy."

But then that bridge actually took form. Improvements in hydraulic fracturing techniques meant billions of cubic feet of natural gas entering the energy equation - and some supporters of renewable started to feel threatened. The International Energy Agency's "Golden Age of Gas" report issued last month outlined this fear:

The (Golden Age of Gas) Scenario assumes that support for renewables is maintained but, in a scenario in which gas is relatively cheap, there is a risk that governments' resolve in this respect might waiver, pushing gas demand even higher than projected here."

That's a natural gas demand fed (and satisfied) by abundant, affordable development of accessible, secure U.S. resources. Good news for America, but bad news for those depending on high energy prices to help them with their agendas. Here is Earthworks' Jennifer Krill in the March Earth Island Journal:

"Every dollar spent on new natural gas wells, pipelines, processing and infrastructure does not bring us closer to wind, solar, and energy efficiency. Quite the opposite: It is taking us in the wrong direction by delaying the transition."

So the issue isn't safe shale gas. It's no shale gas because an affordable, plentiful resource delays favored alternatives. And to be sure, shale gas or not, alternatives will still be developed. In fact, oil and natural gas companies are among the leaders in developing them.

The game-changing shale gas revolution just means that until these alternatives become cost effective we will have an abundant, secure and, as the IEA noted, a relatively inexpensive supply of energy to fuel our economy.

Returning to the PoliticoPro report on New York state's advisory panel: Look who's the voice of reason. Amid a bunch of quotes from environmentalists slamming their brethren for joining in the process, Energy In Depth's Chris Tucker said it looked like the panel was ready to have an "adult conversation" about safe and responsible shale gas development. "We're not going to prejudge the panel before they even convene their first meeting," Tucker said. Wise man.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.