natural gas

Sun, 2011-09-25 11:53Steve Horn
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NAT GAS Act That Would Overhaul U.S. Fueling Infrastructure Moves Forward

On Thursday, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures held a hearing on Energy Tax Policy and Tax Reform.

Three separate panels were held within the hearing itself: one on green energy credits included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, another examining different view points on the proper role of the tax code in promoting U.S. energy policies, and the third on House Resolution 1380, the NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions) Act.

As stated in an earlier article, “The bill is 24-pages long and rewards [natural gas vehicles] with tax [subsidies] to help 'drive' consumption. The bigger the vehicle, the more tax credits given.” The bill's main purpose is to build up a massive fueling and vehicle infrastructure for the natural gas industry, which currently does not exist in the United States.

The NAT GAS bill was written by and for natural gas insiders, chief among them energy magnate T. Boone Pickens, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon and Clean Energy Fuels CEO Andrew Littlefair – referred to in an earlier post as the “self-enriching trifecta.” The bill currently possesses 183 bipartisan co-sponsors and until finally getting a hearing Friday, had sat in the Congressional coffers since early April.

Fri, 2011-09-23 16:21Carol Linnitt
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"It Can't All Be True": Canadian Government Launches New Fracking Studies

According to Environmental Minister Peter Kent, the Canadian government is entering into the shale gas debate by launching two simultaneous studies of fracking and its impacts on the environment.  Environment Canada is pursuing an in-house review of the controversial fracking process, while the Council of Canadian Academies will lead an independent investigation to provide an expert assessment of the science and environmental impacts associated with fracking.

Both federal and provincial governments have traditionally supported the development of the country’s rich unconventional gas deposits. Yet growing opposition has led to civil discontent in some areas like Quebec, where concern over fracking’s environmental impact resulted in a moratorium while a more thorough scientific review is conducted.
 
Quebec’s cautionary approach has prompted others to ask why provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick, where there is equal cause for concern, are not taking a similar science-based approach. But the federal government has met calls for independent investigations and environmental evaluation with silence.
Wed, 2011-09-21 21:55Steve Horn
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Natural Gas Gold Rush, Utica Shale Edition Courtesy of John Kasich

Yesterday, the Ohio Governor's 21st Century and Economic Summit began, hosted by the controversial union-busting Governor John Kasich (R-OH), coming on the heels of an oil and natural gas funded study claiming that claimed, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer put it, “Ohio's natural gas and oil reserves are a multibillion-dollar bonanza that could create more than 204,500 jobs.”

The “study” was written by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP), which, according to its website, “is funded exclusively by Ohio's crude oil and natural gas producers and royalty owners.”

Quite the objective source, indeed. The summit, which concludes today, is hosted by Battelle Memorial Institute, located in Columbus, Ohio. The Plain Dealer explains that the summit is “designed to open discussions about Ohio's use of coal, natural gas and renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind as well as state-mandated energy efficiency rules.”

Titled “Ohio’s Natural Gas and Crude Oil Exploration and Production Industry and the Emerging Utica Gas Formation Economic Impact Study,” the timing of its release seems suspect, to say the least, based on this premise.

Kasich has already stated on multiple occasions that when it comes to drilling for gas, his motto is “drill baby, drill.”

In a recent interview with ClimateWire, Kasich offered his take on the inherent ecological harms associated with natural gas drilling from cradle – when the sand is mined for fracking, to grave – when the gas is actually burned, saying, “There's no problem with fracking. I dismiss that.”

Mon, 2011-09-19 18:15Steve Horn
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Natural Gas Media and Stakeholder Relations Professionals to Head to Houston

On October 31 and November 1, Houston will be abuzz with natural gas industry communications professionals arriving in the Texas city to discuss a topic of hot debate – hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as “fracking,” is the process through which natural gas, located deep within shale gas basins around the country and around the world, is procured.

Many have claimed that the fracking process has contaminated their water, and the natural gas industry has been the subject of sharp scrutiny as of late, most recently at a protest called “Shale Gas Outrage,” which took place outside of the Philadelphia Convention Center, where the Shale Gas Insight Conference was taking place.

On the heels of this most recent outburst, Public Relations, Stakeholder Relations, Community Relations, Crisis Management, Social Media, and Government Relations professionals, among others, will host a conference titled, “Media and Stakeholder Relations: Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011.” It will take place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Houston.

According to the conference website, the conference will focus predominately on “Giving communications professionals at unconventional oil and gas companies the tools to design a comprehensive media and stakeholder relations strategy for engaging the public on a positive image for the industry.”

Fri, 2011-09-16 10:58Ben Jervey
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America's Woefully Inadequate Oversight of Pipeline Safety: A New York Times Stunner

Last week, the New York Times published a bombshell of an expose about the government's woefully inadequate program to monitor and ensure the security and safety of American energy pipelines. I’ve spent a lot of time lately investigating the state of North American energy pipelines, and this is by far the best overview I’ve seen of the government’s feckless attempt to oversee the sprawling system and protect the public from spills, leaks, and explosions.

Reporters Dan Frosch and Janet Roberts dig into federal government records and safety documents and surface some truly startling findings. Like the fact that there are “still more than 100 significant spills each year.” (“Significant” spills being those that cause a fire, serious injury or death, or release over 2,100 gallons.)

Or that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration only requires companies to focus their inspections on “the 44 percent of the nation’s land-based liquid pipelines that could affect high consequence areas — those near population centers or considered environmentally delicate — which leaves thousands of miles of lines loosely regulated and operating essentially on the honor system.” Or the fact that the agency doesn’t even employ as many inspectors as federal law demands.

It’s well worth reading the whole expose, but here’s the crucial takeaway:

Tue, 2011-09-13 11:35Ben Jervey
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Environmental Impact Deemed "Limited" For Potentially Explosive Shale Gas Pipeline Into Lower Manhattan

Last Friday, exactly one year after the massive natural gas pipeline blast that killed eight and leveled a San Bruno, California neighborhood, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) brought the controversial New Jersey-New York gas line one step closer to construction.

The pipeline, as proposed by Spectra Energy, would carry shale gas through a number of New Jersey towns, under the Hudson River, and into the Meatpacking District of Lower Manhattan. On Friday, FERC released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that gave preliminary approval for construction of the pipeline and all of the related aboveground facilities. The EIS runs over 800 pages long, so I wasn’t able to give it a thorough read (you can find links to all the sections here), but the Executive Summary gave every indication that the line would be approved. FERC found “that construction and operation of the NJ-NY Project would result in limited adverse environmental impacts” and that “[T]hese limited impacts would mostly occur during the period of construction.”

For all the detailed discussion of wetlands and waterways and noise pollution and archaeological sites, there’s one major risk – environmental and public safety – that the report glosses over.

What happens if there’s an explosion? New Jersey-New York City shale gas pipeline map

Sat, 2011-09-10 07:15Carol Linnitt
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More Than a War of Words: Gas Industry Plays Fracking Victim

Evoking an emotional response in one’s audience is a rhetorical means of persuasion well documented since Aristotle. But like Aristotle writes in his Rhetoric, if the reliable character of the speaker isn’t enough to convince a crowd, an emotional appeal might be the next best route to getting what you want – a strategy that is evidently well suited to a powerful but untrustworthy voice, like that of the gas industry.

The oil and gas industry's chief spokespeople have become rhetorical masters, the veritable trailblazers of the devolution of public relations into spin and misinformation campaigns. They probably have a thing or two to teach Aristotle about the art of persuasion and conjuring. Take climate science for example, where the industry has conjured up a ‘climate change debate’ out of thin air, or warming air for that matter. With a few flicks of the rhetorical wand a ‘debate’ over the anthropogenic warming of the climate began, despite an overwhelming consensus on the matter from the world’s leading scientists.  

But we’ve long passed the point where we take industry at its word. We have become too skeptical to trust the ‘character of the speaker’ and the industry knows this all too well. Hence the blatant emotional play at work in so much oil and gas industry public relations. 

Most recently the gas industry has chosen to play victim in a rather surprising aspect of the fracking controversy – its language.
Fri, 2011-09-09 15:04Carol Linnitt
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Reliance on Unconventional Gas is No Good for Climate, Says Scientist Tom Wigley

A partial shift from coal to unconventional gas on a worldwide scale will continue to accelerate climate change for a significant amount of time, according to Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). An increased reliance on gas would eventually reverse the warming trend but would only decelerate climate change by a few tenths of a degree. According to Wigley’s findings, that miniscule change will only feasibly occur sometime between 2050 and 2140, depending on the severity of fugitive methane from gas drilling, processing, and transport operations. 

Tom Wrigley, senior research associate at NCAR, is due to publish these findings next month in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change Letters. The journal recently received significant attention on this topic after publishing the striking findings of Professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea. The Cornell University scientists performed a lifecycle analysis of the major fossil fuels to discover that unconventional gas offers little to no climate advantage over coal. 


The hotly contested findings sent a shock wave through the gas industry and environmental community alike, challenging the notion that the continent’s vast reserves of unconventional gas could or should serve as an alternative, interim fuel during the switch to a low-carbon economy. Wigley’s findings also pose a significant challenge to this assumption.
 
“Relying more on natural gas would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, but it would do little to help solve the climate problem,” Wigley told Science Daily. “It would be many decades before it would slow down global warming at all, and even then it would just be making a difference around the edges.”
Fri, 2011-09-09 09:50Ben Jervey
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San Bruno Gas Explosion One Year Anniversary, Lax Oversight is Blamed

San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion at night

One year ago today, at about 6:11 pm, a massive natural gas line explosion ripped apart a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California. The blast was described as “a thunderous roar heard for miles,” and the geyser of fire that spewed forth killed eight people, injured dozens, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged another 70.

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which regulates energy and resource pipelines, revealed the findings of their year-long investigation into the causes of that fatal, catastrophic blast.

“Our investigation revealed that for years, PG&E exploited weaknesses in a lax system of oversight,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “We also identified regulators that placed a blind trust in the companies that they were charged with overseeing to the detriment of public safety.”

Wed, 2011-09-07 07:30Ben Jervey
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America’s Natural Gas Pipelines - A Closer Look At This Gigantic Pipeline System

Following up on our broader look at the North American oil and gas pipeline system, with a focus on crude and the special case of tar sands oil pipelines, this week we'll tackle the tubes that carry natural gas.

Natural Gas in the United States

In 2009, the US used some 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, surpassing Russia as the world's largest producer and consumer of the fuel. Used for everything from heating homes to lighting cooking ranges to powering fleet vehicles to firing power plants – and often cited as a cleaner-burning energy source than coal or oil – demand for the fossil fuel has spiked in recent years.

While natural gas is produced in 32 states, the top five – Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, in that order – produce a full 65 percent of the nation's total (pdf). This leaves a lot of states dependent on natural gas imports. As this map shows, 28 states need to import at least 85 percent of their gas demands.

natural gas pipelines map

Click here or on the map for a larger version.

Moving this huge amount of natural gas around requires a vast pipeline transmission system. Let's take a closer look at these pipes, shall we?

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