Natural gas can fuel our economy
February 24, 2011
Natural gas is critical to solving the American energy puzzle. Our country sits above huge quantities of this high-energy resource.
Recent estimates by the Potential Gas Committee of the Colorado School of Mines indicate the United States has natural gas reserves of more than 2 quadrillion cubic feet within its borders. From an energy output perspective, it may surpass all the crude oil under Saudi Arabia.
Thanks to technologies like hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, the amount of economically recoverable gas is expanding each year. For instance, staggering quantities of natural gas lie just off the North American continental shelf.
Natural gas has myriad applications in the residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors. In addition to serving as a clean-burning source of power and heat, natural gas provides the base ingredients for plastics, fertilizers, and fabrics.
A greater supply means lower prices and a more favorable climate for American manufacturers and consumers. Our domestic energy reserves can provide companies with the certainty needed to hire employees and expand business. Natural gas literally has the potential to fuel our economy.
Unfortunately, anti-drilling activists are intent on keeping our nation’s natural gas in the ground.
Our air is laden with toxic assertions that hydraulic fracturing, an essential component of gas production, leads to contaminated and combustible groundwater. Every level of government is scrambling to enact overzealous regulations that may push natural gas drilling to the brink of economic unfeasibility.
Hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) has a 60-year record of success on over 1 million wells in the United States. There are no cases in this country of properly-performed fracking causing direct contamination of shallow aquifers.
Fracking utilizes fluid and high pressure to create fractures in rock formations that are usually 6,000 to 8,000 feet deep, allowing gas to flow to new gas wells. In Colorado, most groundwater contamination stems from biogenic methane (formed by decomposition of organic material), which is inherent in some shallow water-bearing geologic strata tapped by water wells.
Rhetoric has made fracking controversial. While it makes sense to improve standards and implement regulatory oversight, fracking should not be halted by regulatory zeal. Standards must be tough, yet economically realistic.
Much of the natural gas community is coming together behind a plan to disclose chemicals used in fracking fluids. Government must work with the industry, not against it, to adopt such plans as a keystone of regulation.
More than an energy bridge to the future, natural gas is the road to economic prosperity for generations. The Obama Administration and state governments must ensure access to our energy mother lode.
Congress has to draft a comprehensive energy policy, which allows the free market to send undistorted signals on natural gas production. Government incentives that anoint winners among certain energy technologies, such as wind and solar, ultimately drive up consumer costs for other legitimate alternatives and stunt economic growth.
A sustainable energy future for America depends on affordable access to domestic natural gas.
James Kellogg of New Castle is a professional engineer. More of his thoughts are available on his blog, LiberTEAWatch.com