Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Steven Chu, visited Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Part of his visit was to (sort of) promote shale gas drilling. Among other things, Mr. Chu said hydraulic fracturing can be done “in an environmentally responsible way.”
Mr. Chu, the nation’s top energy official since 2009 and the 1997 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics, toured the National Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park and then stopped in Pittsburgh to laud Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s use of a $3.4 million Energy Department grant.
During a news conference in the mayor’s office, Mr. Chu raised the issue of natural gas production, saying the resource must be developed for economic and national security reasons. He spoke just steps from where city council, concerned about the environmental and health impacts of gas drilling, adopted a citywide ban on production in 2010.
"The long story short is, we believe it can be done in an environmentally responsible way," Mr. Chu said, noting the Energy Department has played a role in researching safe drilling.
He said gas production helps to drive down energy costs and has the potential to become the fuel of choice for long-haul trucks, which account for much of the nation’s transportation energy costs.(1)
However, lest you think Mr. Chu is now a converted pro-driller, he also said the following during his Pittsburgh talk:
"(Natural gas production) can create wealth, but it also has the potential for doing bad things to the environment."(2)
Chu said it was the DOE that discovered horizontal fracking, turning it over to private industry for development. Whatever. Ultimately he displayed the same ideology that runs deep in an administration that now pretends to support shale gas drilling, that ideology being the country needs to get off fossil fuels and on to wind and solar (Solyndra anyone?) as quickly as possible:
Chu said the Department of Energy’s experiments between 1978 and 1992 helped develop the widespread practice of horizontal drilling and fracturing that made capturing natural gas from rock formations such as shale cost-effective enough that private industry could take over. He said ongoing experiments in labs such as the one in South Park would hopefully be adapted by drillers to make natural gas production safer and a more efficient "bridge" from the use of other fossil fuels to wind or solar power to generate electricity.(2)
(1) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Feb 10, 2012) – U.S. energy czar touts natural gas during visit
(2) Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Feb 10, 2012) – Chu: Shale gas can free nation