With the 2016 election on the horizon, energy development has taken the spotlight. But unlike many of the issues that the candidates are debating, the majority of both Democrats and Republicans agree that domestic production of natural gas is delivering clear environmental benefits.
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton perhaps best demonstrated that this week with the release of a factsheet, which touts the climate benefits of natural gas:
“Domestically produced natural gas has played a critical role in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants. US CO2 emissions in 2015 reached their lowest level in 20 years due in large part to a shift from coal to natural power generation, helping to put the US in a strong negotiating position at the Paris climate conference. This shift has also yielded significant public health benefits, avoiding thousands of premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma attacks in 2015 alone. With the right safeguards in place, natural gas can help meet our 2025 international climate commitment, in a way that keeps us on track with achieving a greater than 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” (emphasis added)
The factsheet goes on to explain that the increased use of natural gas is also helping renewable energy thrive:
“Hillary Clinton is committed to making America the world’s clean energy superpower and meeting the climate change challenge. Domestically produced natural gas can play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy, creating good paying jobs and careers, lowering energy costs for American families and businesses, and reducing air pollution that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color.” (emphasis added)
This isn’t the first time Clinton has noted the benefits of domestic oil and gas development. As she told an audience in 2013 at Hamilton College in New York,
“Late into the lecture portion of Clinton’s Oneida County appearance, she referenced a report that the U.S. in on track to surpass Russia in domestic oil-and-gas production.
That’s good news, Clinton said.
“What that means for viable manufacturing and industrialization in this country is enormous,” she said to the crowd of 5,800 in Hamilton’s athletic field house.”
Clinton isn’t alone in her party, either. As the Des Moines Register explained, former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) recently said fracking “to harvest cleaner-burning natural gas should be allowed with strict regulations as part of a broader strategy to reduce reliance on other fossil fuels.” This is especially important given O’Malley’s stance on the climate, as the Register went on to note,
“The Democratic presidential hopeful and former Maryland governor has aggressively campaigned as a champion for the environment, promising to push the United States toward fully powering its electrical grid on renewable energy sources by 2050.”
Here in the Marcellus, where Clinton was a former New York Senator with family from Scranton, Pennsylvania, a similar discussion has shaped up in the Democratic push for the Senate. In that race, the two front runners have drawn a line in the sand. On one side is Kathleen McGinty, who has stated previously to State Impact,
“I don’t support a moratorium,” she said. “I think the responsible production and use of the Marcellus Shale gas is actually part of the secret sauce as to how we will create jobs and how we will compete and win.”
She also went on to explain,
“I would get to work in attracting those businesses and industries that can and should be in Pennsylvania– using that gas as a feedstock– [such as] chemicals, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and grow our economy in a sustainable way.”
President Obama, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Democratic governors, such as Jerry Brown and John Hickenlooper have all touted U.S. natural gas production for its significant climate benefits.
The development of domestic oil and gas has played an important role for both the economy and the environment in the Marcellus and across the country. Fortunately, and as the majority of candidates acknowledge, it will continue to do so into the future paving the way for the United States to keep “on track with achieving a greater than 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050” as Clinton mentioned.
And this bi-partisan support only further shows that groups like the “Keep It In the Ground Movement” or the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) really are fringe movements pushing for fracking bans that would impede on progress already being made to improve the environment and the economy.