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