Why We Must Celebrate America’s Natural Gas Boom
By David Callahan RealClearEnergy
As we celebrate the 4th of July holiday, America’s national security should be front of mind. As such, the energy freedoms that are made possible by domestic natural gas development deserve to be recognized and celebrated this Independence Day weekend.
Energy security has been a national priority for generations, and was brought to the forefront of policy discussions during the energy crises of the 1970s. Two years ago, thanks to the continued success of shale development, America achieved that elusive national security goal when the U.S. became a net energy exporter for the first time since the mid-1950s.
It’s an achievement celebrated broadly, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm telling members of Congress during her confirmation hearing that “hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling…have certainly contributed to the nation’s energy security.”
The widespread adoption of these American-born technologies has enabled the U.S. to become the world’s largest natural gas and oil producer while also reducing energy sector emissions faster than any other nation.
Compared to peak 2005 levels, Pennsylvania power sector CO2 emissions have declined 41 percent, and state data shows sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxide levels plummeted 93 percent and 81 percent, respectively, as more natural gas-fired generation came online during that time frame. This leads to significantly fewer respiratory illnesses, which often disproportionately affect children and senior citizens.
While these energy development successes are being realized in the U.S., energy poverty still burdens many countries across the world. America has the opportunity – and responsibility – to take a leadership role in reducing global energy poverty and help less fortunate nations find a new pathway towards energy abundance and economic growth while also reducing emissions.
Clean, American-produced natural gas is capable of meeting the ever-growing global energy demand, with the natural gas produced here being done so under the most rigorous environmental standards. Furthermore, according to the International Energy Agency’s methane tracker, the U.S. has among the lowest methane emission intensity of all natural gas and oil producing nations.
Domestically, methane intensity associated with Appalachian production is by far the lowest of the top nine hydrocarbon-producing basins in the U.S., a joint report by the Clean Air Task Force and Ceres found.
This environmental integrity holds true among other air emissions, such as CO2, where Appalachia is also associated with the lowest emission intensity, according to a recent Rystad Energy analysis, bringing the basin “to the top quartile among all oil and gas fields globally,” senior Rystad analyst Emily McClain said.
With the overwhelming environmental benefits associated with U.S.-produced energy, it’s no surprise the global demand for American natural gas reached record levels last year and is on track to keep growing as new technology and efficiency practices come underway.
But using our domestic resources for global climate progress hinges on our ability to build new energy infrastructure and pass inclusive energy policies that recognize the many benefits of this critical resource for the environment and the economy.
Policies that ignore natural gas’ long and short-term benefits threaten the energy security America worked so hard to achieve. Moreover, impeding domestic energy production would eliminate all means of economic and energy security, while forcing consumers to rely on energy imports from countries who lack the same industry-leading environmental oversight and regulatory framework.
As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s not forget that energy security is national security, driven by the men and women of the natural gas industry innovating and working in overdrive to meet clean energy and economic development goals worldwide.
David Callahan is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. To learn more, visit marcelluscoalition.org.