Get Ready for Higher Prices and Less Energy Security: Our Natural Gas Reserves Are Being Plundered For Export
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In a final note, the authors caution, "Given all the results of this analysis, it is clear that policy makers need to be very careful in approving US natural gas exports. While we are normally disciples of the free trade orthodoxy, one must examine the evidence in each case. We have done that, and the analysis shows that this case is different. Using the natural gas in the US is more advantageous than exports, both economically and environmentally."
Environmental and Health Impacts Left Out of the Mix
Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club, also slammed the study for failing to assess environmental impacts of increased domestic fracking on both the economy and health of local communities in which drilling would occur and on the overall global climate.
The Sierra Club revealed that the NERA study's main supporting point for a net economic benefit from exports was built on ignoring negative environmental impacts.
Applying federal government estimates, the group calculated that the increase in natural gas exports would pump an additional 689,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere each year at a staggering social cost of $430,625,000. This additional cost would nullify more than 20 percent of the GDP increase projected in the NERA study, which would shift the slight net gain from exports to a net loss.
Jeff Deyette, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that methane leakage issues, both in the act of fracking and extraction and in the transport of natural gas, demand greater evaluation.
"Given how potent methane is, even modest amounts could make natural gas as bad or worse than coal from a total greenhouse gas emissions standpoint," said Deyette.
The NRDC noted the NERA report "ignores environmental externalities, including global warming, air pollution, water pollution and other pollution impacts" and "wholly neglects to estimate public health and environmental damages that are routinely estimated in regulatory impact analyses."
Henry Henderson, director of the Midwest Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted that the negative drilling impacts on communities don't show up in GDP estimates or corporate annual reports.
"There are long-term impacts on property values and the economies of rural communities that are not properly measured by simply the cost of selling natural gas on the market," said Henderson in a recent interview with AlterNet.
"They are jobs that come and go as opposed to impacts that remain in perpetuity," he said.
This impact has already been seen in states that were home to the early fracking boom, such as Pennsylvania. As a January report by the Center for Public Integrity detailed, the prospect of exporting natural gas was not part of the bargain when Pennsylvanians agreed to open their state to fracking.
So now, adding insult to injury, people in towns who've already suffered environmental, health and economic degradation from this extractive process are "surprised, stunned, angry and upset" to discover these same companies not only want to drill in higher volumes but also seek to export the gas without regard for the increased price or the continued negative drilling effects in their communities.
Patzek, of the University of Texas, noted that in later stages of exploitation of a resource such as hydrocarbons, we tend to go from using faraway places with very concentrated hydrocarbons, such as West Texas or the Middle East, to lesser quality, more difficult and dilute resources, which are close to where people live.
"We are at that stage right now and it's only going to get worse," he said. "We will be encroaching more and more on where people live."