Saturday, April 16, 2011

Natural Gas Nonsense

Joe Nocera has an article in today NYTimes arguing in favor of tapping the Marcellus Shale. The main point he makes:
The truth is, every problem associated with drilling for natural gas is solvable. The technology exists to prevent most methane from escaping, for instance. Strong state regulation will help ensure environmentally safe wells. And so on. Somewhat to my surprise, this view was seconded by Abrahm Lustgarten, a reporter for ProPublica who has probably written more stories about the dangers of fracking than anyone. In a comment posted online to my Tuesday column, he wrote that while the environmental issues were real, they “can be readily addressed by the employment of best drilling practices, technological investment, and rigorous regulatory oversight.”
Ironically, the NYTimes also has a front page article today arguing that GOP Pushes to Deregulate Environment at State Level. And this does not even deal with our PA Governor Tom Corbett who has ordered that "the Secretary of Environmental Protection must personally approve all enforcement actions and notices of violation. But only for natural gas drillers." Moreover the Governor will not allow any severance tax to cover any social costs associated with removing the gas.

Nocera argues that all his opponents are NIMBYs. But he ignores any discussion of the high cost of getting the gas out. We are told how abundant the natural gas is, but that any severance tax will lead to a drastic cut in production. Which must mean that most wells are marginal -- that only with very high prices is it profitable to produce the gas.

I am not against drilling but I think one should not ignore the costs. I suppose the problem is that bankers do not drill for natural gas. If they did Joe Nocera would be telling us that we should never take one cubic foot out of the ground -- you cannot trust anything a banker says. But no problem with gas drillers. And environmental regulators, so much better than bank regulators.

1 comment:

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