Saturday, January 9, 2010

Environmentalists debate whether natural gas is safer for the environment

Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Friday, January 08, 2010

"New Mexico is a top producer of natural gas and some environmentalists see the fuel as a more environmentally friendly energy choice than coal.

But is it?

Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, sees well-regulated natural gas production as a good way to transition from coal and oil to renewable sources like solar, wind and biofuels. "Natural gas is an excellent example of a fuel that can be produced in quite a clean way, and shouldn't be wasted," he said. "We see it as part of the energy transition to a post-fossil fuel economy."

But Johnny Micou, who helped martial a grass-roots effort to stop exploratory oil and gas drilling in the Galisteo Basin near Santa Fe, said the environmental impact of unconventional drilling practices that are allowing industry to tap into new natural gas sources have not been thoroughly studied. "The cumulative environmental impacts of drilling need to be considered," he said.

Micou thinks the Sierra Club needs to take a tougher stand. Supporting natural gas as a "transition" fuel only delays the sense of urgency needed to make a real and substantial shift in energy sources. "There are parts where we (he and Pope) agree, but I would like to see more strides now and a significant change from the way we do energy sources and automobiles," Micou said. "Soft-pedaling on industry now is going to perpetuate the problem."

New Mexico is the fourth- or fifth-largest producer of natural gas in the country every year and revenues generated from the billions of cubic feet extracted are a big boost for the state. Most of the natural gas comes from the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico and the Permian Basin in the south. Now energy companies are eyeing basins from Tucumcari to Mora that are potentially rich in natural gas." More>>>>


Related article:

The Wall Street Journal

Sierra Club's Pro-Gas Dilemma


December 22, 2009

"LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- When energy companies began preparations to drill for natural gas in upstate New York last year, the local Sierra Club quickly organized against them.

The group's New York chapter demanded studies on the environmental risks, pushed for stricter regulations and called for a statewide ban on most gas drilling. The drilling hasn't begun as the state works to develop regulations.

It would have been a typical story of environmentalists battling industry, except for one thing: The national Sierra Club is one of natural gas's biggest boosters.

Carl Pope, the Sierra Club's executive director, has traveled the country promoting natural gas's environmental benefits, sometimes alongside Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., one of the biggest U.S. gas companies by production.

The national group's pro-gas stance has angered on-the-ground environmentalists in several states who say their concerns are being marginalized." More>>>>

Link to Sierra Club new national policy on gas>>>>

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