MDN Weekly Update – Sept 11, 2011: Remembering 9/11, Shale Gas Exports

MDN enjoyed the last two weeks of August off, so this is the first weekly update since returning. Thank you for the kind notes received of both “have a great break” and “welcome back.” My wife and I recently observed our 25th wedding anniversary, so we thought we would celebrate with a cruise. Our cruise left the Port of New York on Saturday, August 27, just as Hurricane Irene was starting to arrive. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say we now know what it feels like to ride a roller coaster for 24 hours straight as you sail through the edge of a hurricane!

Not long after returning, the area where we live—Binghamton, NY—felt the effects of Tropical Storm Lee. It brought the worst flooding in our recorded history—over 10 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. We have friends who have lost almost everything they own from flood damage. Fortunately we’re fine, but there are thousands of hurting people in this area. Perhaps you might say a prayer, and if you are so inclined, make a donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. The Red Cross has been out here in force to help. A fine organization.

And I can’t let the 10th anniversary of the attacks on our great country pass without a few words. I once worked for a company with offices in New York. That company was holding a conference at the top of 1 WTC on that fateful day. I personally knew and had worked with some of the people who died an unspeakable death on 9/11. People that I called “friend.” I pause today to remember and reflect on their lives and the lives of all those lost ten years ago today. I recommend a Michael W. Smith YouTube video of his song, “There She Stands” as a fitting way to remember and reflect.

I hope you’ll forgive this personal digression, but amidst the hurting, and the remembering, I find my emotions quite raw. It’s important to remember that in the rough and tumble of our debate over shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, that there are people on the other side of the aisle. People with feelings. You know I strongly support drilling and so am willing to take the arrows that come my way. I have to remind myself sometimes that I need to keep a civil tongue in what is increasingly an uncivil debate. And so I encourage people on both sides of the debate today to remember to be civil. Those on the other side of this debate are not your enemy. Our country has plenty of enemies, and our friends and neighbors who think differently about drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shales are not among them.

Below are the results of the poll which has been posted for the past three weeks.

Poll resultsHydraulic fracturing should be regulated by:

Federal government (13%, 41 Votes)
State governments (52%, 166 Votes)
Both should have a role (35%, 111 Votes)

Total Voters: 318

Should U.S. Shale Gas be Exported?

This past week MDN highlighted a story about exporting shale gas (see here). Dominion Resources has made application with the U.S. Department of Energy to export natural gas, much of which comes from the Marcellus. If Dominion and the other requests to export now on the books at the DOE are approved, some 12 percent of our natural gas supplies would be exported overseas. Those in favor of exporting will say “it’s about time we start exporting again” and that it will boost the U.S. economy by providing jobs and help reverse the long trend that we as a nation are net importers instead of net exporters. Another argument in favor is that we have a surplus right now—more gas is available than we can reasonably use here at home, so why not export it? Supporters will also say that the free market should determine whether or not the gas stays here or goes overseas. All strong arguments to be sure.

On the other side, critics of drilling point out that one of the main arguments used to “sell” the concept of drilling is that it will provide abundant and cheap gas here at home—a source of cheap energy for the next two or three generations—and that we can finally wean ourselves from imported oil from countries not friendly toward the U.S. And if we start exporting a large portion of our supplies, that means less supply at home and higher prices. Critics will say “it’s the almighty buck” that companies want and that they don’t care about the citizen’s of their own country.

Let’s be clear, profit is what drives companies and seeking profit is not evil or bad. If you think so, go live in Cuba. See what that worker’s paradise is like. But MDN also believes that it may be wise to keep tight control over how much gas gets exported. Yes, companies need to make a profit—let’s not deny them that! But on the other hand, let’s not get the gas and immediately sell it to someone else. I’d rather see our auto industry convert to NG cars and trucks, and more home heating converted, and electrical power plants, etc. With an abundant and cheap supply of natural gas here at home, it will happen. But not if we sell it overseas and hike the prices here at home. It’s a fine line and what MDN has called “a thorny issue.” How much fiddling can and should we do with the free market?

So MDN’s poll question this week: Should the U.S. allow shale gas to be exported? Register your vote along the right side of any page on 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

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