The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Protesting Progress

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted March 22, 2016

We’ve read the articles about how affordable natural gas – much of it from the Marcellus Shale in next-door Pennsylvania – has benefitted New York and specifically New York City. So it’s puzzling to hear about a recent effort in New York to block expansion of an Upstate natural gas storage plant in the name of a “climate emergency,” as one activist put it – puzzling because natural gas is doing more to reduce U.S. emissions than any other fuel. The New York Times reports:

“The irony is this,” said Phil West, a spokesman for Spectra Energy, whose pipeline projects, including those in New York State, have come under attack. “The shift to additional natural gas use is a key contributor to helping the U.S. reduce energy-related emissions and improve air quality.”

Unfortunately, this is an example of out-of-the-mainstream activism at work, threatening to roll back important American progress on emissions that has occurred during a period of economic growth and rising domestic energy output. We say this is out of the mainstream because we reckon the real alarm would sound among New Yorkers if access to affordable natural gas got harder for lack of infrastructure – pipelines, pumping stations, storage installations and the like.

A couple of charts help illustrate. First, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New York’s natural gas use rose more than 77 percent and its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell more than 43 percent from 2004 through 2013, the last year for which CO2 figures are available:


Meanwhile, natural gas prices in the electric power sector (including supplemental gaseous fuels) for New York and nearby states have plummeted thanks to surging domestic natural gas production – one of the hallmarks of the U.S. shale energy revolution:


Note Pennsylvania’s results in that first column, showing the natural gas price in the power sector decreasing more than 50 percent since 2004. Again, because of safe development in the state’s Marcellus shale.

These are savings that translate to American consumers and businesses. IHS says unconventional energy – from hydraulic fracturing in shale and other tight-rock formations – has made energy more affordable, increasing average annual U.S. household income by $1,200.

So some folks are protesting natural gas infrastructure … why? The clear disconnect here is between an out-of-the-mainstream agenda and the real-world benefits to consumers and the climate from market-driven energy choices. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi to the Times:

“Saying no to gas doesn’t miraculously lead to the substitution of wind and solar … There is enormous uncertainty about how quickly you can build out renewable energy systems, about what the cost will be and what the consequences will be for the electricity network.”

Natural gas is winning in the marketplace because it provides clean, affordable and reliable energy to consumers, residential and commercial. New York and its neighbors in the Northeast need more, not less, of this energy in the future.


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.