PPG Columnist “Stuck in the Middle” of Marcellus Debate

Brian O’Neill, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and author of the book The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-first Century, writes in a PPG column today that although his heart is with the enviro-left movement, his head tells him that shale gas is the best option for now.

O’Neill puts himself squarely in the middle of the gas drilling debate with clowns to his left and jokers to his right. He’s a true believer in man-caused global warming but believes that natural gas is the “other” (and preferred) fossil fuel, like pork is the other white meat.

The debate in Western Pennsylvania is often one of extremes. Knee-jerk conservatives are in complete denial about the environmental dangers of fracking while knee-jerk liberals seem oblivious to the ways cheap natural gas is already helping the environment.*

Perhaps conservatives are in “denial” about the environmental dangers of fracking because, well, they don’t exist! But we digress. Mr. O’Neill would rather have natural gas than coal powering electric generating plants, and he gently chides the Sierra Club for saying the same thing just 18 months ago but now reversing their stance on the issue. That certainly won’t win him any new friends on the enviro-left.

Somehow, Mr. O’Neill swerves into the truth in his concluding comments:

The fact remains, though, that we can’t function without electricity. We also need to stay warm in winter. If coal, natural gas and nuclear power aren’t options, there isn’t enough wind and solar power to fill the void.

So, until that changes, home-drilled natural gas trumps imported oil. If the Pennsylvania coal industry takes a hit, that’s offset by new jobs in the natural gas industry. That it has already become cheaper to power and heat our homes is no small benefit either.

…at the end of the day, I’ll be glad if the lights come on with gas rather than coal. I’ll be glad if the gas we use to warm our homes doesn’t have to come very far to get there. That has environmental benefit if it’s done right, and we ought to be able to do it right.

That, anyway, is the lonely wishfulness here in the far middle of the Marcellus debate.*

MDN has embedded the Stealers Wheels video of “Stuck in the Middle with You” below for your viewing and listening pleasure. It seemed apropos.

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (May 31, 2012) – It’s not dirty to see gas as energy solution