Editorial: Cleaner natural gas should reduce costs
South Carolina may not be rich in natural gas shale, but new findings regarding its extraction may ease our future energy concerns.
A new study shows that fracking for natural gas doesn’t appear to spew the immense amounts of environmentally unfriendly methane into the air as previously feared.
Methane is a greenhouse gas, and consequently, when it leaks into the atmosphere it can be a contributor to global warming.
While natural gas exploration is certainly not as environmentally friendly as solar or wind energy or biomass production, burning natural gas can be better than burning other fossil fuel sources. Burning natural gas, for instance, is known to produce less carbon dioxide than coal or oil.
Additionally, the cost of natural gas in recent years has been more stable in price swings compared to oil. It’s also more readily available domestically than oil, which is largely exported from the politically volatile Middle East.
If the contention surrounding natural gas extraction is lessened from the new findings, South Carolina will not be injected with economic development as with other parts of the country.
The natural gas boom has been concentrated in states such as Pennsylvania and Texas, but South Carolina, and the rest of the nation, would not be left without a slice of the pie if natural gas continues to expand.
If its impact on global warming appears to be less critical, the natural gas industry can continue to grow, creating an infrastructure, particularly for transportation, that should help to lessen costs for energy production across the board.
According to National Public Radio, the new study suggests that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greatly overestimates methane emissions from new wells that are being prepared to produce gas for the first time. However, the agency also underestimates emissions from wells that are already in production. Looking at the whole picture, it’s essentially a wash. But with new wells not being as environmentally unfriendly as previously believed, that could be positive news for natural gas proponents.
The stumbling block for the industry has largely been that it’s difficult to transport and store. In recent years, natural gas companies, particularly along the Northeast, have also been portrayed as a menace, gratuitously putting up tens of thousands of rigs and exploiting legal loopholes. Other parts of the country have also experienced higher than normal methane levels. Research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in western states, for example, show methane emissions that are 10 to 20 times higher than the new study suggests.
As the industry grows in the United States and globally, the best techniques must be deciphered to ensure environmental concerns are mitigated.
With proper regulation and oversight, we can utilize a cleaner fuel source that can hopefully ameliorate our unsettling energy outlook.