As often as I can I take my family down to Colonial Williamsburg and the historic triangle. Being a colossal nerd, I am in my element talking to period re-enactors and discussing the life and times of America’s founding. My wife often comments that I was born 200 years too late.
After reading some of my emails and story comments regarding shale production, I am starting to think I am not the only one. After all, if you want to end all shale gas production, you need to start thinking in early 18th century terms – in lighting, transportation, and heating.
This is no overstatement; if you take out of play the 100 years of natural gas reserves trapped in shale gas in Pennsylvania alone, you are going to have to get more primitive. Horses and candles are just the beginning.
Start by considering that greenest of snake oil, renewable energy. The idea that renewables are anywhere near ready to take over the base load is a fiction even the pie in the sky folks in the Obama administration can’t sell. Renewable energy works for very discreet tasks (solar water heating is an example) or in extremely limited – and already built out – water projects. Wind is horribly inefficient, and it would take thousand and thousands of them to take even a few coal plants off line.
When you raise the issue of our short and medium range energy needs – think the next 30 years – and someone says “renewables,” walk away – they are not having a serious discussion. Yes, we should work to make renewables viable. No, they aren’t now and the technology isn’t close. Which is why even the most liberal of Presidents has included expanded nuke and natural gas in even vague energy proposals.
But even the president is selling snake oil when it comes to hybrids and electric cars as a long-term solution to our energy needs. The idea that these vehicles are somehow greener is only as valid as how they are charged – a coal fired plant supplying electricity to a car is not green. And it gets even browner – or even coal black – when you consider that each of these cars must have rare earth minerals for the batteries that make these models of inefficiency run; the process of mining the same makes fracking look like a gentle massage with mineral salts by comparison. At least it has the benefit of not being in your backyard – you know, think locally, pollute globally.
The uncomfortable truth – the undeniable fact – is that absent a massive change in our demand for energy we need the gas. All of the comments about “stopping drilling” ignore that. Not one person – not a single one – put forward a plan that offered both sufficient energy and realistic options. And absent a real plan, one that does not rely on people acting completely contrary to human nature and technologies that Mr. Spock was still hoping they would find, we must deal with the options we have.
If we accept – as even the President does – that we will want more and more energy, both nationally and globally, then we must assess available options. Those options are limited for the next generation or two to the very sources most environmentalists hate: gas, coal, oil or nuke. Given those options, in the totality of the circumstances, gas makes the most sense for many of our needs – electric generation, heating, and even transportation. That is why we should support the expanded development of shale gas.
And this is not just a minority consensus. The vast majority of Pennsylvanians support shale development – the disagreement is over the tax policy. I am in that vast middle as well – I want responsible development coupled with a severance tax that captures the costs of future problems in current revenues.
For those of you who still want to call me a radical capitalist and a shill for the gas companies, go right ahead. But practice what you preach – if you want us to consume less energy and you are serious, then live like the Amish. If you think that the extraction of gas is an evil great than all others, shut off your computer, turn off your electricity and sell your car.
Then we will start talking – just as soon as I can set up the two tin cans and the string.
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