Robert Bryce | New York Post | 8 Nov. 2016
The Left’s unthinking demonization of natural gas continues.
Last month, 15 people were arrested at a rally outside the offices of New York Sen. Charles Schumer as part of the ongoing effort by activists to halt the construction of the AIM pipeline, which is designed to carry natural gas from the Appalachian basin to southern New England.
After the arrests, pipeline opponents repeatedly referred to the fact that the project will carry “fracked gas.” Indeed, they repeatedly put the word “fracked” in front of “gas” as though the very notion of hydraulic fracturing is a slur.
Here’s the reality: The natural gas being produced thanks to hydraulic fracturing is saving American consumers tens of billions of dollars per year. It’s helping the United States dramatically cut carbon-dioxide emissions, and it’s an irreplaceable fuel for electricity production, particularly in New York.
But the activists who oppose the use of the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon are loath to admit these benefits. By demonizing hydraulic fracturing, they are, in effect, arguing for more-expensive energy.
In 2006, the average price of natural gas in the United States was $6.39 per million BTU. Today’s spot price: about $2.78. Last year, the Brookings Institution estimated the shale-gas boom is saving American consumers about $48 billion per year. And a recent analysis by Mark J. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute found that Americans are now spending less than 4 percent of their discretionary income on energy — the lowest since 1929.
Why have natural-gas prices fallen so much? Simple: Fracking has allowed producers to unlock galaxies of natural gas from shale deposits. On May 5, the Energy Information Administration reported that 67 percent of domestic natural-gas production now comes from wells that have been hydraulically fractured.
Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, from 2006 to 2015, domestic gas production increased by 55 percent. The United States now produces about 80 billion cubic feet per day, which is nearly a quarter of the world’s total.
The shale-gas boom is driving major reductions in US greenhouse-gas emissions. On May 9, the Energy Information Administration reported that since 2005, the US carbon-dioxide emissions have been cut by about 700 million tons — far more than any other country in the world.
The EIA also said 68 percent of that reduction was caused by changes in fuel use in electricity generation and “decreased use of coal and the increased use of natural gas.”
The report did not mention solar or wind. Not once.
Today, about 35 percent of all US electricity is being produced by gas-fired power plants and 30 percent from coal-fired generators. That’s a stunning turnaround. In 2010, coal was supplying about 44 percent of all US electricity.
Low-cost gas has transformed our electric grid, which is now irretrievably dependent on natural gas for both the minimum power generation needed and to offset the unreliability of solar and wind energy. A February report by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis, which is comprised of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and five universities, found that if the United States aims to continue reducing electricity-sector emissions, gas will have to play a prominent role and that “natural gas shows signs of acting as a bridge to a low-carbon future.”
New Yorkers who like to demonize natural gas should demonstrate their commitment to a lower-carbon future by turning off their lights and unplugging their refrigerators. The biggest share of the state’s electricity — about 40 percent — is generated using natural gas. During the summer months, that number can reach 50 percent. In the United States as a whole, “fracked gas” fuels about 23 percent of total electricity generation.