New York Post: The Real Reason Environmentalists Don’t Like Natural Gas

A column in yesterday’s New York Post talks about the recent flurry of bans against gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing by local municipalities like the cities of Buffalo, NY and Pittsburgh, PA. The columnist speculates on why environmental groups are so viciously opposed to natural gas, when just a few short years ago they were in favor of it. The writer comes to the same conclusion that MDN has written about before: At the heart of the debate is a philosophical worldview that because natural gas is a “fossil fuel” and based on carbon, an abundance of it will slow down the adoption of “alternatives” (like wind and solar) and therefore it must be defeated. And the way to defeat it is to demagogue it and scare people into believing their water supplies will be poisoned.

From the column:

Yet green groups, instead of celebrating this achievement [of the U.S. becoming a net exporter of natural gas instead of a net importer], have mounted a furious campaign to scare the public into believing that fracking poses enormous risks to families by contaminating drinking water.

Oddly, environmentalists once welcomed natural gas, which emits half as much greenhouse gases as coal when burned, as a means to bridge the gap between coal and oil and clean-energy solutions. As recently as 2009, prominent liberals Timothy Worth and John Podesta called shale gas "a bridge fuel to a 21st-century economy." President Obama has also been a supporter of expanding natural-gas supplies.

So what caused the environmentalists to switch? Science writer Matt Ridley points out that "as it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy as well as to coal, the green movement has turned against shale."

Other energy industries are happy to see shale gas take the PR hit, even if they couldn’t care less about its environmental impact. Even Russia’s big gas company, Gazprom, has started echoing the green’s anti-fracking talking points — because it wants to maintain its near-monopoly on European gas sales.

Unfortunately, green groups are succeeding at peddling misconceptions about the risks fracking poses to groundwater supplies, scaring the public and encouraging these short-sighted bans.*

*New York Post (Jun 9, 2011) – Behind the greens’ phantom fright

  • Anonymous

    Environmentalists aren’t opposed to natural gas so much as the fracking procedure to obtain it.

  • But that’s the point. They ARE opposed to it. If fracking magically disappeared and was no longer needed, my point is, they would STILL be opposed to natural gas precisely because it runs counter to the philosophy that we need to move away from carbon-based fuels. Fracking is used as the boogeyman, the straw man argument to focus people away from the real reason for opposition.

  • Anonymous

    “Viciously opposed”? MDN’s drift towards extremist language continues, a trend that will eventually render MDN irrelevant to the gas drilling debate.

  • The gas companies are dumping wastewater into my water supply, the Mon River, and withdrawing enormous quantities oif water from it, even during our summer droughts. We have the worst air quality in Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t stop the gas industry from making the problem worse with air discharges from truck traffic and their processing facilities. Pipeline construction proceeds with no erosion controls (more surface water contamination) and massive deforestation. I’ll still never sign a lease, and I keep tossing landmen off my porch.

  • Anonymous

    Actually Jim, I vehemently disagree.  I would welcome energy companies that came up with safe ways to extract the gas that won’t bring even a threat of contamination, and will not litter my landscape (read: Community) littered with industrial equipment, mess, waste, and poor air quality.  Fracking brings all of these things.  If the gas companies would actually take all of those subsidies the American people are paying them and USE IT FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT as they whine they need them for….they would come up with a safe, environmentally friendly way to extract it.  
    But, they won’t.  They want the cheapest, fastest way possible regardless to how it lays my land to waste.  They don’t care.  They don’t have to look at it or live in it once they pack up and leave.  I HAVE FAITH THAT THERE ARE BRILLIANT PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO CAN FIND INNOVATIVE WAYS TO EXTRACT THIS GAS. I believe there are Americans who can develop this technology.  But these companies don’t care about America.  They care about MONEY.  The energy companies are just too busy lining their pockets with our money to spend it on being responsible.  It sickens me really.  I want this process to move along, but it’s those entities that are creating this lock jam, not the people who love the environment…AKA:  Their Homes.  God forbid people feel attached to their homes and communities.  I blame the gas companies.  Get busy being responsible and developing REAL new technology and stop messing around.  INVEST in our country, not just in themselves.  Shameful really, and so are those who tow their line.

  • I oppose drilling for natural gas on these points: 1. It cannot be done safely; 2. It takes enormous amounts of fresh water out of the hydrologic cycle PERMANENTLY; 3. It is a fossil fuel and as such it’s production and usage produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gases (and going on, business-as-usual, has us on track for a 4 TO 5 DEGREE WARMING IN THIS CENTURY which will make our planet unlivable).

    The only viable alternatives are CONSERVATION and fewer people. If each woman of childbearing years has only ONE CHILD, our numbers would naturally reduce from 7 billion to under 1 billion, in less than 100 years: a sustainable population.

    I want drillers to cry every time they even think about drilling a natural gas well!

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