Natural gas: We need stricter rules and oversight
Part of an aggressive plan to reduce risk to public health and the environment
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are now standard practice for natural gas production in the United States. More than half of our nation’s natural gas supply comes from wells developed using these technologies.
Industry likes to say we have nothing to worry about, but the fact is that natural gas development can impose serious risks on public health and the environment.
So how can we reduce these risks?
Energy efficiency and renewable energy can slow our demand for new natural gas. But weaning ourselves off natural gas, and other fossil fuels, will take time. Natural gas heats more than half of America’s homes, and supplies more than a third of our nation’s electricity. It’s a critical ingredient in pharmaceuticals and fertilizer.
Substitutes for some uses are easier than others, but even under the best of circumstances, it may take decades to displace all of the natural gas we use today. And, in the mean time, we can’t sit by idly.
Communities should not be forced to put their health and quality of life at risk for the sake of energy production. That's wrong, and that's why we are fighting for tough regulations and strong enforcement — vital protections needed to safeguard our air, water, land and public health.
The dangers of climate change also require immediate action. That is why we are fighting to address methane leakage. Natural gas is primarily methane, a powerful greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Even small methane leaks can rapidly accelerate global warming. Finding and eliminating leaks is essential. Our methane mapping project, a pilot project with Google Earth Outreach, is just one way we're tackling this tough challenge.
Natural gas is playing an important role in driving out old, highly-polluting coal plants. That’s a good thing. Designed correctly, gas-fired power plants can play a role in helping to integrate renewables into the grid, providing fast response to keep the lights on if the wind suddenly dies or on days when clouds interfere with peak solar performance.
And natural gas is the fuel that powers innovative distributed energy technologies like fuel cells and combined heat and power plants.
So natural gas can play a constructive role in the transition to a cleaner energy future. But that journey begins with our fight to protect communities from unnecessary risks.
December 12, 2014
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