Can Pro- and Anti-Drillers Ever Get Along?

Both pro- and anti-drillers addressed a Wall Street Journal conference this week called ECO:nomics—and the sparks flew. Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon spear-headed the pro-drilling side with his address, and Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, represented the anti-drilling side. Some of Gallay’s comments illustrate the nonsensical arguments from anti-drillers. He responded to McClendon’s vision of getting off foreign oil with U.S. shale drilling this way:

“It’s a beautiful story, but it’s not true,” said Gallay, who went on to lay out both economic and environmental problems. Economically, he said, cheap gas will not stay cheap once we convert our cars to run on gas and put in more gas power plants to replace coal and other generation. Gallay compared the situation to an adjustable rate mortgage, where the deal looks great at the start, but the rate keeps rising until you lose the house.

“This is snake oil,” said Gallay.*

So Mr. Gallay’s plan would be to give up and stay connected to foreign oil forever? Does he like $5 per gallon (and higher) gasoline? Strike that, he probably does! More likely, he wants see everyone on public transportation or riding bicycles.

Converting passenger vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG) is the next logical step to a) reduce carbon emissions (for those of you who care about it), and b) get off foreign oil. Common sense. Which eludes some people.

At the end of the conference, Atlas Energy CEO Edward Cohen said this:

The problem with communicating the industry’s view to the public, said Edward E. Cohen, president and chief executive of Atlas Energy, is that it “comes in the context of tobacco people saying ‘No problem,’ of nuclear people saying ‘No problem.’” That, he said, engenders skepticism, and the natural gas industry needs to understand that.*

MDN concurs with Mr. Cohen, which is why we don’t gloss over the bad news when it comes along. It’s important to be fully honest and fully transparent about the good and the bad. Yes, there are downsides and yes, accidents happen. But being honest about the negatives should also apply (and many times does not) to anti-drillers too. Wind, solar and other so-called alternative energy sources are not without their problems, not the least of which is scale and cost. But they also have environmental problems too.

*Wall Street Journal (Mar 22, 2012) – (ECO:nomics) ‘Snake Oil’ Vs. ‘Environmental Nonsense’