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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Natural gas is best fuel for our future

Too often, the debate about hydraulic fracturing falls prey to clever Hollywood-style gimmickry that neglects to inform and educate.
With that said, it is refreshing when scholarly studies are conducted to shed light on a complex topic. It is particularly important for those in public office who would otherwise respond to passionate, vocal advocates.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a study which attempts to remove the bias and provide scientific objectivity. It highlights the significant role natural gas will have on the future of transportation, energy production and greenhouse gas reduction. The point here is that natural gas has been and will remain a friend to the environment.
The natural gas industry has an impressive safety record in New York, principally because of the strong tradition of regulatory oversight and a healthy respect for the environment by all concerned. The state Department of Environmental Conservation's three-year SGEIS process for addressing high-volume hydraulic fracturing is simply a continuation of that tradition. When issued in final form, the SGEIS will serve as a roadmap throughout the natural gas industry for safe and environmentally friendly shale development.
Natural gas is the cleanest-burning of our fossil fuels and has rightfully replaced oil for power generation while making a serious dent in our reliance on coal. And yes, someday even "greener" sources will be available such as wind and solar, but in the interim we need to deal with the here and now. Natural gas, at present and for the foreseeable future, is our best option for reducing our dependence on coal and foreign oil.
A recent study by the Manhattan Institute emphasized the positive economic impact to New York, particularly upstate, with the realization of an anticipated 18,000 (and potentially 90,000) jobs and commerce associated with shale development of $11.4 billion by 2020. These tremendous benefits could be achieved even sooner with timely resolution of the SGEIS process.

Another recent study by Duke University surprised its own researchers when an examination of wells drilled in Pennsylvania found no presence of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing in water wells. That doesn't minimize the importance of safeguards at the surface, but with all the rhetoric and fear-mongering regarding contamination of our water supplies, it is a point worth repeating.
While the Duke study pointed to a higher concentration of methane found near production wells, the study also acknowledged the presence of methane in water wells in areas where there was no natural gas drilling activity. No surprise, much of the natural gas associated with water wells is naturally occurring "biogenic" methane that would be in a water well even in the absence of a nearby natural gas well.
I am a firm believer in the benefits of an informed public. Knowledge is power, and hopefully studies such as these will improve the quality of the debate.

Liquefied Natural Gas


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