Thursday, September 02, 2010

Energy Backyard Brawl

In the latest issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, Seamus McGraw sketches what unconventional natural gas could mean for Pennsylvania if residents and leaders cared to craft a vision. The potential is exciting. In the Observer-Reporter, more of the same Marcellus Shale hype:

Washington County Commissioner Bracken Burns said as more Marcellus gas is produced, there will be the opportunity for gas usage closer to home, particularly for transportation.

Burns said he has asked the Allegheny Conference to call a meeting of all gas drillers, the auto industry and the pipeline industry to discuss ways of creating infrastructure to make Western Pennsylvania CNG-friendly.

"Let's not ship it to Louisiana. Let's put it in a (vehicle) to drive our kids to school with it," Burns said, adding that some area companies and school bus operators are already looking at ways to convert their fleets to CNG operation. Noting that CNG has 75 percent lower emissions than gasoline, he said the state should also be considering conversion to natural gas vehicles.

As Chris Briem (Null Space) suggests, Burns is using fighting words. More rhetorically friendly is the claim that shale gas will lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Domestically, coal is under fire:

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the country's largest utility, has just announced that it is closing nine coal-burning plants at three locations. TVA will replace that lost capacity with natural gas and nuclear plants. The utility has also announced plans to resume work on the Bellefonte nuclear reactor near Scottsboro that has stood unfinished for 30 years.

Colorado is near to compelling its largest utility company to convert most of its power generating plants from coal to natural gas to meet the state's clean air standards. Coal miners who fear the measure will take away their jobs are carrying placards in protest.

I can't blame the miners, but still I applaud efforts to clean up the environment. I hope my father would understand.

That's from a Alabama newspaper, home to the Pittsburgh of the South. A little closer (perhaps too close) to home:

We’ve seen minor controversies before over WVU’s close ties and blatant promotion of the coal industry, including the fairly recent dust-up over the creation of a chair in the university’s engineering school in honor of coal operator Bob Murray of Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster fame. WVU President James Clements initially refused to discuss this matter, and then agreed to start a discussion on campus about the rules for such corporate donations — only after a group of students protested donations by Murray and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Now, author and Huffington Post commentator Jeff Biggers is calling on Nike to pull these new coal-uniform ads in a blog post headlined, Scandal of the Week: Nike Runs Mountaintop Removal Football Ad, Disrespects Coal Miners.

Could the battle lines be more stark? Actually, they could. Coal already has the reputation as environmentally unfriendly. Shale gas is doing its best to catch up. Is there a lesser of two evils between the two? The gentleman from Alabama seems to think so.

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