The LA Times Spews More Gas Than Truth Over Extraction

Representatives from Mr. Pyle, President of the Institute for Energy Research, recently reached out to me in an effort to set the record straight on natural gas extraction. Recently, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed that was chockfull of scare tactics, false analysis, and misrepresentations about the science and methods behind natural gas extractions. In fact, the op-ed was so misleading it caught the attention of Mr. Pyle himself. Big Journalism is where he turned to help set the record straight.

Consider these bullets before reading the rebuttal by Mr. Pyle.

  • A current estimate of natural gas in America is 2,047 trillion cubic feet (enough to power our nation for the next 100 years).
  • Congressional Research Service claimed that America’s supply of recoverable natural gas, oil, and coal is the largest on the planet.


President, Institute for Energy Research

A recent Los Angeles Times op-ed, “Natural gas: Cheap, clean and risky,” professes to sing the praises of natural gas. Ironically, the scaremongering to which the writer, Hal Harvey, predictably plays and the onerous regulation he endorses would all but ensure the United States came in last in natural-gas production, use and export.

Mr. Harvey writes, “[U]nburned natural gas turns out to be a very powerful greenhouse gas: One molecule of leaked gas contributes as much to global warming as 25 molecules of burned gas.” If the gas to which Mr. Harvey refers is methane, his contention is problematic. The link between natural-gas extraction and methane leaks is tenuous at best; in fact, according to an August 2011 report of the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, “The presence of methane in [water] wells surrounding a shale gas production site is not ipso facto evidence of methane leakage from the fractured producing well since methane may be present in surrounding shallow methane deposits or the result of past conventional drilling activity.”

Mr. Harvey also calls for “[s]trong standards for wells, with effective monitoring and enforcement,” but such regulations already exist. The most obvious of these is the Environmental Protection Agency’s gargantuan Safe Drinking Water Act, which governs, among other things, “discharge of produced waters from hydraulic fracturing operations.” In addition, states have their own laws regulating natural-gas extraction. One such law dictates the extent to which gas companies must return land they use in natural-gas exploration to its prior condition. So much for Mr. Harvey’s heavy-handed admonition later in the piece against “poison[ing] the land” by drilling.

In addition, the op-ed implies that there is an established link between “people’s tap water catching fire” and “nearby gas well[s].” Unfortunately for Mr. Harvey and environmentalists everywhere, there have been reports of flames shooting out of peoples’ sinks for decades – long before the advent of horizontal hydraulic fracturing. What’s more, the instance of fiery faucets is rare – though Mr. Harvey would have readers believe people who live near natural-gas wells wear Hazmat suits every time they go to wash their hands.

This is all just another case where the environmentally-minded advocates speak from both sides of their mouths. Since they cannot really deny that there is an obvious need for natural resources, they don’t try. However, they can make it nearly impossible to do so by misleading the public and encourage the federal agencies practice and expansion in misguided regulations.

Other countries are already stepping up the plate: Just last week Devon Energy Corp. and China’s gas giant, Sinopec, announced a $2.2 billion, one-third interest in American shale, and France’s Total SA said it will invest $2.3 billion in Ohio gas reserves.

With abundant stores of natural gas and a globally unmatched know-how when it comes to extraction technique, natural gas is our game. But if we don’t start playing, we won’t win.