Natural Gas and Coal Lobbyists Vie for Better Stake in Energy Bill

September 7, 2009

(ChattahBox)— As the House Cap-and-Trade energy Bill makes its way to the Senate chamber this fall, natural gas and coal lobbyists are beginning to apply pressure on lawmakers for an advantage in how the costs of emitting carbon dioxide emissions are calculated. The current House bill provides a relatively friendly price advantage for coal and natural gas interests are making their push for gas, as a cleaner alternative to the nation’s aging coal-fired power plants.

The New York Times made the case for the natural gas industry in a piece published on Sunday, citing Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy who is known for his aggressive Astro-turf campaigns and who was a supporter of the vile Swift Boat campaign against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Rodney Lowman, president of a new gas lobbying group, American Natural Gas Alliance, was mentioned in Clifford Krauss’ NY Times piece, as spearheading lobbying efforts for the natural gas industry. Lowman previously lobbied on behalf of the plastics industry for nearly 20 years.

The New York Times laments the inefficient coal-fired power plants; “lawmakers from coal-producing states appear committed to keeping coal as the nation’s primary producer of power.” And also, questions the coal capture and bury emissions technology as unproven.

It’s certainly true the nation’s coal-fired power plants are dirty and inefficient and there are many lawmakers from coal-producing states pushing for the coal industry in the energy bill. It’s also true that natural gas is cleaner and it emits less carbon emissions.

But drilling for natural gas comes at an environmental price, as does strip-mining for coal. Drilling for natural gas from shale deposits releases toxic chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde and could pollute deep aquifers, groundwater, and surface waters. It also releases emissions, which pollute the air with unhealthy smog.

Residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth area are protesting Chesapeake Energy’s drilling in the Barnett Shale region, concerned about toxic chemicals poisoning the environment near their homes and children.

To push backagainst criticism of its Fort Worth shale drilling operations, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy hired actor Tommy Lee Jones to extol the benefits of natural gas in a major media campaign, including radio, TV, newspaper and billboard advertising.

As the coal and natural gas lobbyists descend on Capitol Hill this fall, to make their case for more favorable greenhouse gas emission allowances in the final bill, its important to remember that whoever prevails, the basic framework of the energy bill remains in place to tackle emissions and curb global warming.

Robert N. Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program recently said:

“But the ‘remarkable’ quality of a cap and trade system, is that all this lobbying really didn’t matter. […] But no matter who wins or loses in the allocation scheme in a cap and trade system, the environmental goal will be reached—and the overall cost to society is the same. That is the very fortunate property of a cap and trade system. There is this marvelous political safety value.” That’s why the main environmental groups stayed on board, even when individual industries garnered goodies in the bill.”

Currently, coal provides about half of the electrical power in the U.S., with natural gas providing about 20 percent. The natural gas lobby would like to see the conversion of aging coal-powered plants to natural gas.

But as noted by David Hawkins, a climate change expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “simply replacing coal with natural gas for power generation is ‘not a viable strategy’ because that would merely delay climate change by a few decades.”

Ultimately though, the real weapon against global warming, is the development of renewable fuels like wind and solar energy to one day, replace non-renewable fossil fuels of gas, oil and coal.

Until that day arrives, the Cap-and-Trade Bill serves to make a significant dent in greenhouse gases by lowering carbon emissions to 17 percent over 2005 levels by 2020 and the ultimate reduction of emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050.


3 Responses to “Natural Gas and Coal Lobbyists Vie for Better Stake in Energy Bill”

  1. Natural Gas and Coal Lobbyists Vie for Better Stake in Energy Bill … wl power on September 7th, 2009 7:46 pm

    […] Original post:  Natural Gas and Coal Lobbyists Vie for Better Stake in Energy Bill … […]

  2. Natural Gas and Coal Lobbyists Vie for Better Stake in Energy Bill … ZT power on September 7th, 2009 8:31 pm

    […] Here is the original post: Natural Gas and Coal Lobbyists Vie for Better Stake in Energy Bill … […]

  3. Chris (Energy In Depth) on September 9th, 2009 10:22 am

    For those who might care to read up a bit more on the issue of whether hydraulic fracturing technology is safe, and whether the materials used in the process represent a danger to human health or the environment, I’d commend to your attention the following website:

    Fracturing technology has been in use for more than 60 years, not only to help free up tight-pockets of energy trapped miles beneath the surface, but also by EPA — as part of its Superfund cleanup regime. It’s also a tool that well owners have used for decades to stimulate the flow of fresh water, not to pollute it.

    All told, more than 1.3 million individual wells have been fractured over the past several decades, and in the time, not a single case of contamination has been credibly linked to the technology. Food for thought as we all look for ways to deliver America an affordable, reliable and, as important, clean energy future.

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