Shale Gas vs. “Dirty” Coal

This week, one of EcoWatch.org’s Most Read Items was a post by Andy Rowell of priceofoil.org entitled Fracking Boom Kills Renewable Energy Industry. Commenting on a trio of pithy headlines from The Guardian newspaper, Rowell concludes, “Gas, especially shale gas, is likely to undermine renewable investment. Anyway, gas is now being seen as low carbon by the EU, and will receive subsidies that should have gone to kick-start the clean, renewable revolution. This is despite the fact that shale gas is no cleaner than dirty coal.” 

Golden Age of Gas’ Threatens Renewable Energy, IEA Warns by Fiona Harvey, May 29, 2912

Gas Rebranded Clean Energy by EU by Fiona Harvey, May 29, 2912

Using Shale Gas Over Coal Does Not Help Climate, Says Big Gas Investor by Fiona Harvey, May 29, 2912

But it’s a local headline that really drives the point home. On June 5, 2012, Susan Phillips posted Pennsylvania Lags in Green Energy Ranking on StateImpact.npr.org.

Phillips reports that State Rep. Chris Ross, [R-Chester County] has intro­duced HB1580 to increase dwindling incentives for solar energy development. “But the bill is opposed by the Cor­bett Admin­is­tra­tion and the nat­ural gas indus­try, and is cur­rently stuck in com­mit­tee.

New Jersey and Maryland are both beating us on the solar front.

It seems the gas industry is successfully repositioning itself in the global debate over fracking. Rather than battle the image that Shale Gas Production is harmful to the environment, they are now presenting their product as cleaner than “dirty coal.” Even people who should generally know better – like the Europarl and the Sierra Club – are now debating this point. However, if you take into account the entire shale gas production cycle, and relatively short life-cycle of cement wellbore seals, it turns out both coal and gas suck.

When it comes to Gas vs. Coal, it’s a race to the bottom.

In the Comments section of Rowell’s article, Joel Longstreth throws down the typical, pro-gas gauntlet, one that industry would love fractivists to accept. He writes, “I will be an anti fracker if you can show the chemical equations and incontrovertible data which prove natural gas and coal are just as dirty. To put the fracking business out of business, you could develop something cleaner and cheaper than natural gas. I’ll be your first shareholder.

K… Fracking permanently depletes watersheds. We can live without gas, but not without water. Shale gas production emissions are causing asthma rates to triple in Pennsylvania. Shallow methane migration is an expanding problem. LNG has an even larger carbon footprint than CNG. This is off the top of my head…

Point is, gas, coal… makes no difference if the streams are running red.

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