The oil and gas industry, rather than diversifying and investing heavily in solar and wind power, continues to chant a mantra of "drill, baby drill" like the cretin from Alaska so popular with brain dead Republicans. A new part of that mantra is that natural gas is going to deliver America from foreign oil dependence and save the environment. Like much of what comes out of the oil and gas industry the ads run by Exxon, BP, and the Petroleum Institute don't tell all of the story. As I not in my not yet published October column in VEER Magazine, I was once an in-house lawyer for an oil company, so I understand the intricacies of oil and gas exploration and the side effects of secondary and tertiary recovery not t mention fracking. A column in the Roanoke Times calls attention to some of the ignored costs of the natural gas obsession. Here are highlights:
Natural gas is indisputably cleaner and cheaper than oil or coal, a factor that makes it desirable for a nation that, until now, has been fearful of being dependent on foreign energy sources. Our country has been energized by the natural gas boom, which may not peak until 2030, allowing us to sell some of this valuable fuel, whose smaller carbon footprint makes it desirable worldwide, especially to our European friends who are tied to Russian energy sources and their unpredictable reliability.To find the true cost of natural gas, however, requires including ancillary costs that are not part of the business model: the cost that communities accrue in their doing or having done business with the power companies; the unbudgeted costs of disaster clean-up; reduced land values where pipelines cross; remediation of by-spills from leaking pipes that invade the water table.Ryan Hankins, in his Aug. 21 commentary (“Don’t blindly oppose pipeline based on fear”), asks us not to “blindly oppose” the Mountain Valley Pipeline “based on fear.” It would be a blessing to be “blind,” to not know so much about the havoc being wrought by this industry The pipeline to which he refers is but one of many “straws” sucking from the Marcellus Shale, siphoning off the dwindling supply of natural gas.The natural gas industry, in its hydraulic fracturing process, requires 2 billion gallons of water a day, according to the Government Accountability Office. Fear instructs me that once approved by the Federal Regulatory Commission, the proliferation of these natural gas pipelines will encourage the growth of fracking along its length, in spite of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s assurance that he will not allow it in the George Washington National Forest. And where will the water come from? And where will the toxic wastewater go? . . . . Gov. Christie of New Jersey recently vetoed a law passed by his legislature that would have prevented importing and disposing of wastewater from other states.
Not mentioned in the column is the increased frequency of earthquakes in areas where fracking is active. Too many Virginians forget the dangers of increasing earthquakes in central Virginia where the North Anna nuclear power plant sits near fault lines. And lets not forget the vulnerability of the Lake Gaston watershed that provides a huge portion of the water for south Hampton Roads. The cost of expanded natural gas production in Virginia could be huge when these elements are factored in.