The Catch-22 of Green Energy
As the world shifts, or tries to, from its oil dependency new technology has made it easier for the development of green energy that has the possibility of reducing our nations carbon footprint but, at what trade-off? And if so, is natural gas our best option– for now?
While visiting Oklahoma City, OK we stopped at a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station owned by Chesapeake Energy, a company that provides natural gas for almost all of Oklahoma and most of the United States, to discuss the use of natural gas and its non-threatening impact (low carbon dioxide emissions) it has on our environment–although now debatable.
At that moment it seemed like a great idea because it would reduce our carbon footprint, it would gear us away from our dependency on oil and it would have a positive impact on local economies since it is a domestic product; but not without a trade-off.
First thing to note is that natural gas is a fossil fuel, a natural resource, and thus has an expiration date, 60 years is what the Natural Gas Supply Association estimated, assuming that in those years our technology has not evolved fast enough to cope with the demand for energy consumption. If so, is this a viable form of green energy to invest in if it is expected to run out in our lifetime?
The trade-off is that CNG is the cleanest form of fuel available and in fact only one car, the Honda Civic GX is sold in the United States that runs off this gas. To provide a good comparison, the GX is scored a higher ranking in emission ratings than the Toyota Prius. This is especially appealing to many because the use of petroleum for transportation produces 32 percent of the carbon monoxide that is released into the atmosphere according to the 2010 U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report.
Despite the lack of infrastructure established across the country that would provide enough CNG stations to fuel traveling vehicles; the mere fact that the United States is the “Saudi Arabia” of natural gas, with abundant supplies floating beneath our feat, could possibly create thousands of new jobs in states that desperately need them.
But catch is that the method of which natural gas is extracted from our planet includes a practice called hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at a high pressure down into a well as far as 10,000 feet below the surface. The pressurized mixture then causes the rock to crack sending natural gas up the well.
The concern with this practice is that some of the chemicals injected into the ground may seep into the groundwater and contaminate the water used for the public, which has caused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March to launch an investigation is such practice. After fracturing was found as a common thread in over 1,000 cases of water contamination in seven states, as reported by ProPublica.org.
Advocates for hydraulic fracturing, such as Chesapeake Energy who listed on a websitethey host, say that, “properly conducted modern hydraulic fracturing is a safe, sophisticated, highly engineered and controlled procedure.”
While the use of CNG appears to be a promising solution to cutting back our countries greenhouse emissions by a high percentage, at what/whose cost are we willing to further exploit our land to tap into limited natural resources?
Photo Caption: Many states across the nation offer tax incentives to people who buy cars that use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Even though CNG is the cleanest forms of green energy, especially for vehicles, the method in which CNG is extracted is controversial leaving many unsure about the threat it may cause to rock formations and underground water. Photo Credit: Jacky Guerrero