In his latest commentary on WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Franz Litz, executive director of the Pace Energy & Climate Center, takes a reasoned look at the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas. He argues: “It’s time we recognize the environmental upside to all of this fracking. As long as we put safeguards in place to protect our water supply and air quality, fracking and the low cost natural gas it will produces will improve our environment by cleaning up the air we breathe. And at a time when our national leaders have decided to do nothing to address the climate change problem, low cost, low carbon natural gas may be just what we need.”
Litz reminds listeners that before fracking, “the environmental community had a long-running love affair with natural gas” because it burns cleaner than other fuels, doesn’t cause acid rain, has about half the carbon content as coal, and doesn’t pose the same risks to human health as coal.
Yet, Litz warns, “We must work to put the right regulations in place to ensure fracking is safe. We also need adequate regulatory oversight to ensure the gas industry is complying with those regulations.”
He praises New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, who have halted fracking in the state until these necessary safeguards are in place. “This is precisely the kind of reasonable approach to fracking that we need,” Litz remarks.
Litz sees a bright future for this country thanks to natural gas. “New exploration and extraction technologies such as fracking have increased supply of natural gas and lowered its cost. The result will be cleaner air in the Northeast as Midwestern coal plants shut down, replaced by plants burning cleaner natural gas. Northeastern states have waited decades for this kind of change.”
He adds that fracking “just might give us a jump on a lower carbon economy at a time when politicians are largely ignoring climate change as an issue. If we replace one-third of existing coal burning power generation with natural gas–a realistic goal–we’d reduce U.S. global warming pollution by at least 5 percent. If we could replace one-third of the transportation fleet currently burning oil derived fuels with natural gas, we could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by another 5 percent.”