Look Beyond the Confines of Natural Gas

Note: One of the most pervasive and insidious myths shoring up fracking is that natural gas is the “clean bridge fuel.” Even many environmentalists persist is using the industry’s propaganda term “clean” to refer to natural gas, often calling it “cleaner than coal.”  Burning gas is not “clean” or “cleaner than” using other fossil fuels. This is a myth that needs to be shattered. The following is one piece which penetrates the fog.

By Leslie Garcia, Calvert Recorder

In his letter to the editor [“There are benefits to natural gas,” Jan. 23, The Calvert Recorder], Mr. Tom Forgette of St. Leonard wrote that natural gas is “the most environmentally friendly fuel (in Calvert County, the U.S. and the world),” and that it “can reduce the rate of global warming and, hence, have a positive impact on the world.”

I believe the truth lies elsewhere.

Mr. Forgette, I respectfully differ and beg that you listen. The overall life cycle of natural gas results in far more global warming than coal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 assessment estimates that methane’s global warming potential is 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeframe, and 72 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. The repeated mantra that natural gas is cleaner than coal is a lie, based off these figures. During extraction, piping, refining, liquefaction, storage and shipping, methane leakage can and does occur in large quantities. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that when factored into the whole equation, the natural gas that comes through facilities like Dominion’s at Cove Point may produce more greenhouse gases over time than all other fossil fuels, including coal.

About 6 million gallons of chemically loaded water are used per well in the process of drilling hydrofracking wells, and that contaminated water can and has poisoned groundwater, springs and rivers. The process of natural gas extraction has done great environmental damage and brought personal ruin in many places. Communities in Pennsylvania where hydrofracking is allowed have experienced contaminated wells — unsafe even for showering or washing, according to some reports. Documented cases include, in Texas, sickened people (air) and gruesome death to pets and livestock (water); in Oklahoma and elsewhere, earthquakes. Will those earthquakes spread the “secure” contaminated fracking well waters?

Thousands of us in Calvert County rely on our private wells for drinking water — about 100 gallons a day per person. Dominion will be tapping into aquifers and consuming up to 275,000 gallons per day. Most of us live here because of proximity to our lovely Chesapeake Bay and quiet rural charm. Add 20.4 tons of toxic emissions per year and 24/7 refining, liquefaction and piping — all Dominion admissions to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — and kiss goodbye our lovely bay and quiet rural charm.

Sun and wind are the most environmentally friendly forms of energy on the earth. Look at the full equation from fracking fields to refinery, liquefaction and shipping — the personal cost of pollution via consequent and substantial health care; massive environmental damages and cleanup costs caused by fossil fuel extraction and production; and government subsidies via slashed taxes for these destructive fossil fuel companies — and solar and wind win, hands down.

The costs of solar and wind, long forbiddingly expensive, like smartphones and computers once were, have been falling and are becoming cost-competitive with natural gas and other fossil fuels. Given the option, would you really choose a rotary phone and 3-pound paper phone book?

Instead, Dominion could create one of the most environmentally friendly and community friendly energy projects in the world. It could build a solar and wind farm, and it could invest in the local and global community by taking a leading role in sustainable technology, jobs and fair taxes. It could create a bridge to the future with a Southern Maryland landscape of bay, lighthouses, alternative energy and rural charm. Instead of kissing the bay goodbye, we might kiss Dominion for its kindness, wisdom and foresight. What is stopping them?

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