The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Krugmanland Revisited: Solar vs. Natural Gas

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 7, 2011

The New York Times' Paul Krugman likes solar energy. Lots of folks do. Here's a post from The Times' Green blog about Chevron's Brightfields solar project in California.

Other oil and natural gas companies also are invested in solar, part of $9.1 billion committed to non-hydrocarbon technologies from 2000-2010 - a subset of $71 billion those companies have invested in greenhouse gas-reducing technologies over the past decade.

Back to Krugman. A funny thing happened on his way to touting solar energy: a strange, fact-free attack on energy from natural gas. Apparently, his way of lauding solar.

Unfortunately, it's a false premise too common in the current energy debate, needlessly pitting oil and natural gas against other energy sources in a zero-sum game. Needless, because the reality is America must have all available sources for a secure energy future: oil, natural gas, solar, wind, biofuels and more.

Krugman attacks something that's not there: the notion that industry seeks exemption from environmental and safety standards, "special treatment for fracking" that amounts to a public subsidy. Pure fiction.

Actually, regulators and industry are partnering to develop effective state regulatory regimes so that fracking is as safe as possible for people and the environment. Krugman might check with Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, which carefully regulates natural gas production in that state, helped by industry-backed increases in permitting fees used to hire additional field inspectors. He might also note that companies are working to be good citizens - for example, Chesapeake Energy's expenditure of more than $90 million to repair more than 160 miles of Pennsylvania state roads damaged by the company's trucks and other equipment.

Bottom line: The oil and natural gas industry seeks no special treatment, no "subsidy," as Krugman tries to depict. This is an industry that contributed $476 billion to the U.S. economy in 2010. An energy stimulus! More specifically, in some states revenues from natural gas production are plugging holes in education budgets (examples here and here), which Krugman surely must appreciate.

Finally, Krugman notes that the Energy From Shale website characterizes the natural gas debate as one between "those who want our oil and natural gas resources developed in a safe and responsible way" and "those who don't want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all." But his column underscores the very point.

Industry wants safe and responsible development, evidenced by its compilation of standards and practices and continuing efforts to work with state and local officials. Meanwhile others, to advance their energy agenda, will attack straw men to oppose an abundant, clean-burning fuel source that is creating jobs and improving lives across the country.


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.