MDN Weekly Update – Dec 4, 2011: Should Renewable Energy be Required?

poll resultsMDN decided to “take the current pulse” of our readers to see what you think, at this point in time, about the relative safety of hydraulic fracturing. The poll, after only seven days, resulted in the third highest ever number of voters for any MDN poll. A clear majority of MDN readers believes that fracking does not endanger public health.

Does hydraulic fracturing as it is practiced today endanger public health?

No (58%, 231 Votes)
Yes (35%, 141 Votes)
Not sure (7%, 29 Votes)

Total Voters: 401

What about renewable energy?

MDN editor Jim Willis attended one of the final New York DEC hearings in New York City this past week (see this story for the “raw” coverage, and this story for my final thoughts). One the sentiments echoed again and again was that now is the time for renewable energy. Actor Mark Rufalo said at the hearing that, “We want renewable energy now and we will fight for it,” with thunderous applause from the almost-all anti-drilling audience. MDN has made this point again and again: An ideology that fossil fuels are evil and that only renewable energy sources should be used going forward is the at the very core of opposition to natural gas drilling. That ideology was on full display this past Wednesday at the hearing.

I believe it’s a dangerously naive ideology. Our world is no where near the point where wind and solar can take over from natural gas and oil. Not even close. Such a thing will not be possible for at least the next several generations. Someday? Maybe! And hooray if it happens. But arbitrarily declaring “now is the time” and forcing our country to use renewables will have the effect of forcing us back to the stone ages—something those who advocate for it somehow ignore.

If renewables can compete, economically, in the free marketplace and win—I think that’s great. Problem is, right now they can’t. Not without heavy subsidies and frankly not without the heavy hand of government forcing people to use renewable sources. I would call forcing people to use renewable sources a form of fascism (look it up Occupy people, before you bellow about my use of terminology).

But perhaps you think I’m wrong. I’d like to know what you think. Should the government require at least some use of renewable energy sources in an attempt to “push it along” and encourage adoption? Or should the government leave well enough alone? Vote on the right side of any page in the site.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

Five Most Viewed Stories This Past Week (Nov 27th – Dec 3rd)

  1. New Website Shows Maps with Permits, Wells, Pipelines & More (11/30/11)
  2. Error Found in Penn State Fracking & Water Well Study (11/29/11)
  3. Final NY DEC Hearing in NYC – Surreal (12/1/11)
  4. OH Landowner Group Seeks Driller for 45K Utica Shale Acres (11/28/11)
  5. PA Legislature Struggles with Gas Well Setback Provision (11/28/11)

Five Most Viewed Stories Last 30 Days (Nov 3rd– Dec 3rd)

  1. Major Discovery – Chesapeake Energy Strikes Oil (and Gas) in Ohio’s Utica Shale (7/29/11)
  2. Picture of Hypocritical Anti-Driller at Recent NY DEC Hearing (11/22/11)
  3. List of 78 Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid in Pennsylvania (6/30/10)
  4. New Website Shows Maps with Permits, Wells, Pipelines & More (11/30/11)
  5. New Waterless Fracking Technology Tested in TX (11/21/11)

MDN Calendar (Dec 4th – Dec 17th)

New York



West Virginia


  • Anonymous

     Your ideas on alternative energies are outdated and shortsighted. Do you think government subsidies favoring some national goal are  a new thing? Government gave 12 mile wide right of ways[ taxpayer owned land ] to railroads barons in the 19th century to encourage development. Electrification  , oil and gas subsidies, interstate road system , airports ; all fascist government intervention in your eyes?
      So what is wrong with  government setting goals that  are intended for the common good? Isn’t national defense spending something that citizens must pay for  even if they don’t agree with every way that money is used? Do you really want to live in a country  where industry can pollute the water and air as they choose to make an extra buck [ like China ]? Did you know there isn’t  a species of freshwater fish in this country that doesn’t have mercury in it? Just go look at the signs next to the  pristine lakes in the Catskills [ New York City’s water supple ] that warn you not to eat the fish more than once a week [ not at all for pregnant women ] That mercury comes from burning coal .I support gas development because it is so much cleaner than coal [ no mercury or arsenic, no sulfur dioxide, 80% less nitrogen dioxide, 50% less carbon dioxide ,no particulates ] and because it helps are economic and military national security.But for the same reasons I support alternative energy development. You don’t believe in Climate change? Fine. Ignore the international scientific consensus that grows stronger by the year. Ignore the major insurance companies that are raising their risks assessments  and the Pentagon which calls climate change a national security threat.But don’t listen to those outlets of information supported by major industries that are invested in the status quo. Remenber the line spread by the cigarette industry about health risks in the 50s, 60s,70s,80s ? First cigarettes were healthy, then they were safe, then there wasn’t good scientific date of health risks and then there wasn’t  100% proof cigarettes caused cancer and heart disease. The same tactics are being used against climate change.
      If you need a reason to support alternative energy ,make it the same reason you can support the gas industry. National security.
     Alternative energies have come down dramatically in price in just a few years because of subsidies and innovation and competition. Solar has dropped 70% in 4 years and many believe it will be competitive without subsidies within five to ten years. Have you ever heard of More’s Law ? Wind energy in some markets is already approaching parity without subsidies.
      In  the 1890s, a famous scientist once said that all the major scientific discoveries had been made and the 20th century would just be an era of refining some of the details…. It is difficult to see the future,but history has repeated shown  predictions of failure [ your vision of the future of alternative energy ] by naysayers are almost always wrong.

  • Anonymous

    If someone wants to call forcing renewables on the populace as “facism” then what shall we call drilling companies which use an antiquated, unjust law, dating back to medieval Europe when kings declared gold and silver mines for their own in order to pay for their bloody wars, come onto our properties unannounced; survey, locate gas well pads and access roads without the owner’s knowledge and then these same WV property owners have only 15 days to comment to the WV DEP before the bull dozers arrive?  Is that facism also?

  • Jim Willis

    If indeed what you say is true, yes, it is facism.

  • Anonymous

    WV is a mineral severance state which puts WV property owners who only own surface in terrible perile when drillers come calling, particularly in areas where there is a lot of Marcellus activity.  These property owners will experience property devaluation, have problems attracting buyers to their land, potential buyers, if they can be found, may not be able to get mortgage financing, title insurance can be in jeopardy, homeowner insurance companies may find their property too risky to insure.  People who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their properties may see it all go down the drain. And if those property owners who are lucky enough  to own both estates decide to sell their surface and retain their mineral rights, they will be no better off than those who own surface only when they go to sell their land. And once the drilling begins, these leases can go on for generations. I would say to people, take your sign up bonuses and hope they don’t drill. Mr. Ellis, you need to get away from your computer and stop having lateral conversations with pro drilling people and get out in the rural areas, talk to the affected parties and I guarantee, you will come away with a better understanding.

  • Anonymous

        I read your articles regularly and enjoy the work you are doing. It is refreshing to see an objective point of view. As to your new question, I am a true capitalist and as such think the market should be allowed to work. The government has no place in sorting out winners and losers and/or preferred sources of energy. The plain truth is we can’t keep up with increasing demand with renewables alone. Even with all the growth in wind and solar it still represents less than 4% of total energy consumption in 2010 and is expected to still be 4% by 2030. As demand goes up and supplies go down price will determine the winners as the alternatives to fossil fuels look better. Trying to force that with government intervention is just silly.

  • Jim Willis

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Anonymous

    “Trying to force that with government intervention is just silly. ”

    As a true capitalist, do you support ending all government subsidies to all energy companies? I’m not picking a fight, just curious where you would stand on that. An interesting study by a Yale graduate student was put out a while back looking at the relative amount of subsidies given to each energy source.
    Also, don’t you think that availability may play into the equation? Obviously, fossil fuels are abundantly more accessible (at least in the US) compared to renewables, so couldn’t this discourage those who may want to use renewable sources but can’t?

  • imforit

    Very well said!  While seeking new energy sources, we as a nation must move forward in a responsible way.  We’ve made some progress in fighting pollution, but with acceptance of the gas drilling industry as it now exists, we will be going backwards.  Various forms of industry related diseases such as asthma are running rampant and for the sake of business, our leaders look the other way.

  • Jim Willis

    I am consistent. No corporate welfare of any kind–period. That includes energy companies.

    Tax breaks, etc., however, are not corporate welfare or “assistance” as giving someone a break on taxes simply leaves the money that belongs to them in their pocket instead of government picking their pocket. So let’s be clear about terminology.

    Renewables must stand on their own, economically, without being forced or funded by taxpayers.

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