( – promoted by redstateblues)
Is it a change of heart… or just a change of tactics? On Thursday, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), in a joint press release with the Colorado Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), announced they were withdrawing their lawsuit against the new oil and gas rules. For the people, communities, and environment of Colorado, this is really good news. It means the oil and gas industry has finally given up on “repealing” the new guidelines.
From the beginning, there were voices within the oil and gas industry that did not join the howls of protest emanating from the oil and gas lobby and the Republican Caucus. Those voices were from those who could see that companies which were already using “best management practices” could actually benefit from the new regulatory process, while the “wildcatters” and the companies with a penchant for pollution would be held accountable. It is to the credit of those moderate leaders within COGA and the Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) that they seem to have finally understood that a rejection of the rules in their entirety was not going to happen.
The well-groomed and well-paid army of O&G lobbyists, and the legislators that serve them, will continue, I am certain, to assault the rules and the commissioners on a piecemeal basis, and whenever possible, they will spend millions to unseat any politician who opposes their agenda. Some things never change, but this announcement is important because it signals a shifting of tactics by the natural gas industry. Facing overwhelming public support for the new rules and an apparently resolute Democratic Governor and Senate, not to mention a very weak case in court, the O&G folks have decided to bank their hopes on convincing America that natural gas is, somehow, an environmentally responsible, “clean” fuel. That, of course, is not true.
Tisha Conoly Schuller, the new President and CEO of COGA includes in the press release a comment concluding, “the importance of Colorado natural gas in reducing air pollution,”…well…not exactly. While it is true that natural gas burns cleaner than coal, she does not take the massive amount of methane, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and a host of other noxious gases introduced into the atmosphere where the gas is taken from the ground.
While, as a result of last years’ Clean Air, Clean Jobs bill (HR1365), the front range may benefit from reduced emissions at three power plants, the gas patches that produce the gas will see dramatically elevated levels of pollution, including elevated levels of ozone.
Consider the following from a Propublica article released recently;
“The EPA’s new analysis doubles its previous estimates for the amount of methane gas that leaks from loose pipe fittings and is vented from gas wells, drastically changing the picture of the nation’s emissions that the agency painted as recently as April. Calculations for some gas-field emissions jumped by several hundred percent. Methane levels from the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas were 9,000 times higher than previously reported.
When all these emissions are counted, gas may be as little as 25 percent cleaner than coal, or perhaps even less.
Billions of cubic feet of climate-changing greenhouse gases-roughly the equivalent of the annual emissions from 35 million automobiles-seep from loose pipe valves or are vented intentionally from gas production facilities into the atmosphere each year, according to the EPA. Gas drilling emissions alone account for at least one-fifth of human-caused methane in the world’s atmosphere, the World Bank estimates, and as more natural gas is drilled, the EPA expects these emissions to increase dramatically.”
These findings, along with the work done by Dr.Robert Howarth, an environmental biology professor at Cornell University, indicate the rosy picture painted by natural gas advocates (and investors) is significantly in error.
“Dr.Howarth used research from the United Nations to calculate that if methane’s potency were more appropriately considered over 20 years, rather than the100 years used by the EPA, it would be 72 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in terms of its warming potential.
Figured that way, the climate effect of methane from natural gas would quickly outpace the climate effect of carbon dioxide from burning coal. Howarth’s research is incomplete and has been criticized because at first he failed to figure in methane emissions from coal mining. But he said that after correcting his error, the emissions from coal barely changed, and the data still showed that the intensity of methane could erase the advantages of using natural gas.
“Even small leakages of natural gas to the atmosphere have very large consequences,” Howarth wrote in a March memorandum , which he says is a precursor to a more thorough study that could begin to scientifically answer these questions. “When the total emissions of greenhouse gases are considered … natural gas and coal from mountaintop removal probably have similar releases, and in fact natural gas may be worse in terms of consequences on global warming.”
With the help of millions of dollars to buy non-stop television ads touting everything from drilling techniques to algae farms, the O&G industry is working to convince America that our future is safe in the hands of the people who brought you the Deepwater Horizon disaster, among many others. Misleading the public with vague generalities and, sometimes, flagrant mendacity has been the modus operandi of the American Petroleum Institute (API) for a very long time. A case in point is the most recent claim by the “lady in the black pantsuit” that the natural gas industry “fuels” 9.2 million jobs. Fuels? An intentionally vague term, meaning just about anything the industry message jockeys want it to mean.
The fact is, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in both oil and gas extraction, as of Jan 2011, was 161,500; a far cry from the 9.2 million the industry supposedly “fuels”. If you include the waitresses and supermarket clerks in every gas industry town in the nation, throw in all the refinery workers, truck drivers, and associated jobs you can imagine…you might get to a million or so. That is certainly a significant number, but apparently, the message managers at the API don’t think that number is impressive…so they lie.
The desperation that drives them to such prevarication is their burning desire to create a bigger market for the product they habitually over produce. One thing they don’t lie about is the abundance of natural gas…the stuff seems to be almost everywhere. They know the profits that await when natural gas hits $12/mcf (12 dollars per thousand cubic feet). But in order to drive up the price, they need to expand their market.
From the Propublica article:
“The natural gas industry…has pressed hard for subsidies and guarantees that would establish gas as an indispensible source of American energy and create a market for the vast new gas reserves discovered in recent years. The industry would like to see new power plants built to run on gas, automobile infrastructure developed to support gas vehicles and a slew of other ambitious plans that would commit the United States to a reliance on gas for decades to come.
But if it turns out that natural gas offers a more modest improvement over coal and oil, as the new EPA data begin to suggest, then billions of dollars of taxpayer and industry investment in new infrastructure, drilling and planning could be spent for limited gain.
“The problem is you build a gas plant for 40 years. That’s a long bridge,” said James Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest power companies. Duke generates more than half of its electricity from coal, but Rogers has also been a vocal proponent of cap-and-trade legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Rogers worries that a blind jump to gas could leave the country dependent on yet another fossil resource, without stemming the rate of climate change.
“What if, with revelations around methane emissions, it turns out to be only a 10 or 20 percent reduction of carbon from coal? If that’s true,” he said, “gas is not the panacea.”
To continue to subsidize and expand markets for this dirty, finite fossil fuel over other, clean, sustainable options is complete folly. The next industries to provide Americas’ energy future should utilize those sources of energy that can sustain us as long as the sun shines and the winds blow. We have no time to waste.