THE FOSSIL FUEL CAROUSEL

brass ringSince the entrance of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania, and all the hoopla about the good things it will bring, one of the talking points has been about how dirty coal is and how natural gas has less CO2 emissions than coal.  Periodically we see a battle royal between the Coal Industry and the Natural Gas Industry.

The often repeated question asked by the natural gas industry is “Are we going to rely on environmentally devastating coal-powered plants?”, the talking point continues to praise the cleanliness of natural gas.

coal is filthyThe industry’s front groups, public relations groups and astro-turf groups have all cherry-picked through various reports to show natural gas is better for the environment than coal.  American Clean Skies, a front group co-founded by former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, bankrolled the American Lung Association to squash coal burning power plants.   In April 2012, McClendon declared victory over coal.

We get the point.  Coal is bad, gas is good.

One of the loudest drum beaters for natural gas in the Pennsylvania Legislature has been Senator Gene Yaw (R-23).   His district covers Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna (parts) and Union (parts) Counties, some of the heaviest gas drilling sacrifice zones in northeast Pennsylvania.

Yaw is also chair of the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.

From backroom invite only meetings to expand drilling on public land, forced pooling (also known as compulsory integration) and requiring town to pay for expansion of pipelines and more, Yaw has championed natural gas in Pennsylvania.  Often at Yaw’s side and tooting the natural gas trumpet is Senator Tim Solobay (D-Washington).

 HOW DEAD IS COAL?

Pennsylvania has been touted as the “NEW TEXAS”, the “SAUDIA ARABIA OF NATURAL GAS”, even Kathleen McGinty, a 2014 Democratic Candidate for Pennsylvania Governor, touts natural gas as transforming the state into the a “BLUE COLLAR SILICON VALLEY”.

Underlying all of this is the message of King Coal is dead, long live King Gas, right?

Not so fast.  If Yaw, Solobay and a few others are successful, coal will rise again.  You remember coal?  That dirty stuff which is suppose to be replaced by natural gas?

On September 25, 2013, Yaw announced the formation of the Senate Coal Caucus with himself and his trumpet tooting side-kick, Solobay, as co-chairs.

No, it’s not a typo.  Yaw and Solobay are co-chairs of  the Senate Coal Caucus and joined by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R-25), Senators Jake Corman (R-34), John Gordner (R-27), Richard Kasunic (D-32), Scott Hutchinson (R-21), Bob Robbins (R-50), Elder Vogel (R-47), Kim Ward (R-39), Don White (R-41), John Wozniak (D-35) and John Yudichak (D-14).

In his press release, Yaw states: (emphasis added)

“In recent years, Pennsylvania has been fortunate to have an abundance of natural gas located in the Marcellus Shale formation contributing significantly to our local and state economies,” Yaw said.  “Since the industrial revolution, coal has also fueled our economy having created hundreds of thousands of jobs.   Collaboratively, we can change the dynamic of coal as an energy resource.”

The newly formed Coal Caucus will serve as a forum through which legislators and industry representatives can collaborate on the needs of the coal industry, focus on the utilization and consumption of coal to significantly reduce consumer demands on foreign fuels and highlight new coal technologies within the industry.

“While we have focused our attention on other sources of energy such as gas, wind and solar, we can’t forget that we are sitting on approximately seventy billion tons of coal here in Pennsylvania,” Yaw added.  This Coal Caucus will serve as a champion for increased investment in coal and coal-driven technology.”

Please note – there is nothing in his statement about natural gas being cleaner than coal.

The emphasis is on the much debunked talking points of job creation.

Since December 2010, Pennsylvania is ranked 46th in the nation in job growth. The jobs that are being created are largely low paying, as illustrated by trends in wage growth, which show Pennsylvania at pre-millenium levels.

Yaw also cribs from the natural gas talking point about dependency on foreign fuels.  Coal is now going to reduce that dependency.

Confused?  We’re you under the impression that natural gas was going to reduce that dependency?  Natural gas has been given a green light for full speed ahead in the construction of liquid natural gas EXPORT terminals.

Yes, all that American Gas will soon be exported to European and Asian markets where they demand higher prices.

What about the cheap, abundant natural gas for America?  Right now, due to the gas glut created by industry itself, natural gas is cheaper and abundant.   Once exporting begins in earnest, the cheap abundant natural gas for Americans will become expensive and not so abundant.

SHALE ENERGY

One of the concerns regarding the pending natural gas exportation rush is it will increase drilling for natural gas.   A valid concern, but the talking points are changing again.

Pay attention to this quote (emphasis added):

When President Barack Obama made an offhand remark two months ago regarding the economic export opportunities provided by America’s unprecedented natural gas production (as a by-product of the current revolutionary oil shale development), it signaled a green light for full speed ahead in the construction of liquid natural gas terminals.

Although in parenthesis, note  “…current revolutionary OIL shale development….”.  Oil – not natural gas.

The recent SHALE Insight 2013 gathering of fossil fuel interest in Philadelphia has dropped the word gas.  The emphasis is now on shale OIL.  

This is a complete flip-flop from the still repeated talking point about natural gas replacing coal, and breaking the oil habit.

Meanwhile another talking point about natural gas, this one being “natural gas as a bridge fuel” is equally false.  A December 2012 US Department of Energy Report calls natural gas a “foundation fuel”, and this was touted by the American Gas Association (AGA).

We’re being taken for a ride on the Fossil Fuel Carousel where the brass ring means more profits for them and expansion of sacrifice zones for us.

© 2013 by Dory Hippauf

P.S. And forget about more regulations or stronger regulations to protect us, the only thing regulations do is set limits on how much the industries can poison us, and that’s assuming the regulations are even enforced.

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