Is natural gas the Obama administration’s new tool for tackling global warming?
Trillions of cubic feet of shale gas have been safely extracted using hydraulic fracturing all while reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
“It’s been a big contributor to our carbon reduction,” Moniz told the New York Daily News editorial board in an interview.
“Obviously, it’s a huge economic benefit,” he added, saying that the abundance of natural gas has stimulated $100 billion in investments in manufacturing.
Moniz would not comment on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delaying a decision on fracking in the state.
New York has had a moratorium on fracking for about six years and Cuomo has been heavily criticized for dragging his feet on making a decision.
“New York needs the economic growth that hydraulic fracturing will bring and we need the state to lift the moratorium so we can begin rebuilding our upstate economy,” said Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council.
Environmental groups have been more successful in keeping up the pressure on Cuomo to ban the controversial drilling practice, which they argue can contaminate water supplies and harm air quality.
“We know fracking isn’t safe,” wrote Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch. “We know it poses serious risks to human health, drinking water, air quality, property values, and to our climate. It inevitably produces serious accidents and death.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has failed to link fracking to groundwater contamination in three separate investigations, and the Energy Department also recently released a study saying that the drilling practice was safe.
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and some chemicals deep underground to break up rock formations and extract pockets of natural gas or oil. Environmentalists also argue that the practice releases methane — a potent greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere, but Moniz downplayed those fears.
“You know what to do,” Moniz said. “You know how to complete a well. You know how to capture methane.”
In the past few years, natural gas has been expanding on private and state lands, revitalizing the local economies of states like Pennsylvania and bringing much needed jobs back to the region.
The greater Pittsburgh area alone has seen energy sector jobs grow by more than one-third since 2005. On the state level, natural gas industry invested more than $12 billion in the state Pennsylvania in 2011, supporting more than 200,000 jobs.
Pennsylvania gas production is up 50 percent from last year and the state is set to extract 3.2 trillion feet of natural gas by the end of this year.
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