Thinking Clearly About Oil and Gas

Posted by on Jan 10, 2013 in News | 0 comments

There is a lot of chatter these days about much needed economic expansion in United States and the opportunity that is oil and gas production. Finding useful, clear headed information about this opportunity is harder than you might imagine. The web is packed with every conceivable viewpoint and Google has become a wasteland of paid advertising. Most of what you find merely confuses and confounds. Yet with effort one can cross check with other search engines and tease out articles that are candidates for a serious read.

The bias runs the gamut, as you might expect. The movie “Promised Land” portrays the oil and gas companies as evil, duplicitous con artists. On other hand “FrackNation”, to be released on January 22, 2013, offers a magnanimous view of the companies and their efforts. I want to see both movies, in one day if I can swing it!

Dozens of groups claim the high ground of truth. Among them is ProPublica. This group has a clearly defined agenda, in their own words, “To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust.” I don’t question the journalistic craft; the articles are well written and seem to be earnestly researched. I just cannot put stock in their exposé simply because they are on a “Mission“. They intend to find what they already believe to be true and that is not a good way to go about research in my book.

Providing a bit of contrast to ProPublica is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The NREL articles are closer to the type of research necessary to prove economic viability of renewable energy production. The site offers a large number of articles and one, the Renewable Electricity Futures Study, was pointed out to me by a staunch supporter of renewable energy. On the top level web page for the study is the comment “The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios.” This implies the comparative research was limited to similar technology only. Ignoring significant competing technologies does not consider the real world reaction in the marketplace. Consider the iPod story in the MP3 player space. The gap in the analysis reduces its relevance to the larger matter and has the potential to mislead.

Renewable energy is here to stay, no doubt about it. As renewable energy production improves to meet demand on an industrial scale at prices that create hard cash business opportunities for micro and small business, the flow of investment will continue to increase. In absence of that, or perhaps in the meantime, we need to employ all available methods for rebuilding the economic power of working and middle class in the United States.

The primary problem of the day is driving an expansion of the US economy. A robust economy will afford many great things including renewable energy sources not to mention easing the national budget problems. We, meaning the denizens of “Main Street”, have lost a great deal of economic power in the past 40 years. Multinational corporations have justified their abandonment of the US workers with arguments of “too expensive” for almost all aspects of the US workforce. It is the responsibility of “Main Street” to create a business environment that promotes competitive, profitable local business. Part of creating that environment is finding ways to be “less expensive” without further destruction of our financial strength and standard of living.

One way to improve our economic fortunes is to promote the production and use of natural gas as a part of a larger energy strategy. Here in the United States natural gas is far less expensive than anywhere else in the world. How long has it been since you heard that anything was less expensive here? Boone Pickens pointed out in his talk on that a substantial reduction in air pollution can be realized by converting the national trucking fleets to natural gas. Natural gas development is just one step on that larger strategy but a very important one.