AC Alert for February 7, 2012 Is Cheaper Natural Gas Good for Our Environment?

Feb 8, 2012 10:30 AM ET AC Alert for February 7, 2012 Is Cheaper Natural Gas…

AC Alert for February 7, 2012
Is Cheaper Natural Gas Good for Our Environment?

With more and still more supplies of natural gas being unearthed across North America and other regions, like Europe and Latin America -- through the implementation of the fracking process -- the price for this precious commodity has been going down. Result: Could be much cheaper natural gas from domestic sources for consumers and industry and government users.  Less Middle East oil being imported.  More energy self-sufficiency. Cleaner burning fuels. And other benefits.

Now these things bring smiles to a whole lot of faces, especially those consumers and business owners who have struggled over the past few brutal winters with the escalating price for home heating oil in the US Northeast. Moreover, there is no question that burning natural gas is cleaner than traditional coal-burning and older oil burning furnaces. So this really sounds like a slam dunk for the environment, correct?

Well not so fast, says MIT Economist Henry Jacoby: "We have to keep our eye on the ball long-term." While he admits the lower gas prices will clearly be a boon to the economy, he's also concerned about how cheap gas will affect much cleaner sources of energy.

Wind and solar power are more expensive than natural gas, and though those prices have been coming down, they're chasing a moving target that has fallen fast: natural gas. From an environmental perspective, natural gas could help transition our economy from fossil fuels to clean energy. It's often portrayed as a bridge fuel to help us through the transition, because it's so much cleaner than coal and it's abundant. But Jacoby says that bridge could be in trouble if cheap gas kills the incentive to develop renewable industry." (Source: NPR)

Covering Energy Issues for You

Energy-related issues -- such as the benefits or drawbacks of less expensive natural gas -- are covered every day in AC with special emphasis in our Energy/Environmental Issues Section.

We really do live in the Energy Age. Imagine how our lives would be different without the benefits of abundant and economical energy. However, no resource on Earth is truly inexhaustible, as our traditional fossil fuel sources are not without limits.  The world's oil supplies are being depleted at a rapid rate and becoming more expensive to extract, process, transport and distribute.  Meanwhile, there are many nations without abundant and affordable energy. 

As more nations industrialize and modernize their systems, and their middle classes grow, the demands made on the world's fossil fuel supplies will place even greater stress on energy-related matters and on global supplies. The hot button issues today in energy include reduction of use, conservation of existing supplies, energy efficiencies, and alternative sources of energy.  While the world goes on using traditional fossil fuels, the race is on to harness natural and renewable energy sources, whether they are solar, geo-thermal, wind, tidal, or other "clean" technologies. 

AC brings you news and updates, research and insights, commentary and opinion, all the information you need to know.

Here are some recent samples from our Energy section:

Environmental group sues company over Gulf oil spill begun in 2004 by damage from hurricane
(Source: Washington Post) Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against Taylor Energy, the company it blames for an oil spill 11 miles off the coast of Louisiana, claiming oil has been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for more than seven years with few details about what's being done to stop it.

Obama expedites wind development off Mid-Atlantic
(Source: USA Today) As part of its clean energy agenda, the Obama Administration has announced that it's moving forward to develop wind power off the coasts of four Mid-Atlantic States. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said federal environmental reviews for designated "wind energy areas" off Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia found no significant environmental impact -- clearing the way for companies to seek leases.

EPA misses dioxin deadline
(Source: CNN) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has missed its self-imposed deadline to complete a dioxin health assessment by the end of January, prompting criticism from some environmental groups. The agency, which has been working on publishing dioxin risks since the mid-1980s, said the report would be finalized as expeditiously as possible.

Speakers tout safety of fracking practices
(Source: News and Observer) Speakers from the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying arm for the oil and gas industry, said last week that the energy industry's self-policing standards should serve as a model for how North Carolina can regulate natural gas exploration and fracking.

NRC inspecting water pumps at stalled US reactor
(Source: AP) A failed electrical insulator blamed for a power loss to a nuclear reactor in northern Illinois has been replaced. However the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has launched a special inspection into how some equipment responded to the outage. The incident occurred at the Byron Generating Station about 95 miles northwest of Chicago, operated by Exelon Energy.

US urges swift oil deal for South Sudan, Khartoum
(Source: Reuters) The United States has called for a swift agreement between [the nations of] Sudan and South Sudan on the division of oil and revenues between Khartoum and its new neighbor.


Fracking Boom Could Finally Cap Myth of Peak Oil: Peter Orszag
(Source: Bloomberg) Guest commentator Peter Orszag, Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup Inc., believes that the U.S. oil market could be on the verge of its own fracking revolution, similar to what the natural-gas market is already experiencing. As a result, he suggests that domestic production is going to rise significantly over the coming decades, reducing the relative share of imports in U.S. oil consumption.

Energy related issues and developments continue to be one of the most dominant selections of daily articles at AC. Our editors are up before dawn in the Eastern US to be sure the very latest information is available to you with one click of the mouse as you enjoy your morning coffee. To stay abreast and informed, visit AC's Energy section every day.

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.