Monday, March 31, 2014

Greens, Still in the Dark on Gas

No one should trivialize the environmental harm from natural gas exploration, and from hydraulic fracturing in particular. The air and water quality implications are sobering. And the Obama Administration needs to clamp down on the natural gas industry on methane leakage (they are). But the most strident green groups continue to display a stunning sanctimony, one that suggests they exchange ideas only in their exclusive echo-chamber, producing an ideological purity that would make Tea Party fanatics blush. 

In a March 18 letter to the President, sixteen environmental organizations urged the President to reject a plan to build the Cove Point liquified natural gas export facility in Lusby, Maryland, and to "commit to kepping most of our nation's fossil fuels in the ground."

It is an intentional conflation to lump natural gas in with coal as "fossil fuels," much the same way that Tea Party fanatics lump all taxes together as evil. Some taxes are better than others; some fossil fuels are better than others. Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide than does coal for unit of energy produced, and virtually none of the sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, or mercury emitted by coal. Methane leakage is still so serious that it may cancel out the carbon dioxide benefits. But stopping methane leakage can be done. As many have pointed out (including myself), there are countries out there, most notably China, that do not appear to be terribly concerned about the critisicm heaped upon them by the likes of 350.org, the Sierra Club, or Friends of the Earth. Coal is the fuel of choice for countries that can afford it. The only potential rival is natural gas. The U.S. now produces enough of it to export, and export it to countries that would not otherwise consider reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is reason to believe that China, in particular, would be a buyer, given the crippling smog suffered by so many Chinese cities, a product of cars and coal-fired electricity generation. 

The 16 green groups also invoke the specter of higher "U.S. gas prices -- harming virtually all Americans" as a reason to dial back export of LNG. Of course! That is what we need to make our economy more energy-efficient! Low gas prices! That's the answer! We can have (indeed, must have) lower gas prices because it is the moral suasion of these great green groups that will cause us to consume less energy!

Many Democrats have heaped scorn on the Tea Party as being irresponsible, intractably stubborn and self-serving, and delusionally ideological. Those people might take a hard look at some green groups and wonder if they really are any different.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/law_econ/2014/03/greens-still-in-the-dark-on-gas.html

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