Future energy: natural gas fracking--who blew up the 'bridge to the future'?
Submitted by admin on Tue, 12/27/2011 - 00:00
By Jon Entine at AEI:
An anti-fracking philanthropist has turned environmentalists into precautionary conservatives. How did this happen?Environmentalists are not playing it straight on natural gas. Until recently, they have been amongst its most aggressive promoters, even coining the phrase “bridge to the future.”“Natural gas is inherently cleaner than coal or oil,” wrote the DC-based NGO, Renewable Energy Policy Project, in 1997, in a typical analysis. “Since renewables will be unable to meet most energy needs for some time, gas is an essential bridge to a renewable energy era.”As recently as 2008, progressive environmentalists, such the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, heralded its promise. “We also need to consider … how to better support natural gas as a bridge fuel to a more climate-friendly energy supply,” said president Eileen Clausen in a widely circulated speech. Natural gas was seen as a marriage of enlightened capitalism and pragmatic progressivism—a fossil fuel, whose reserves would gradually diminish, as the price of alternative energy became cost competitive.Now, many activists call natural gas a “bridge to nowhere,” as Earth Island Journal recently headlined. Inexpensive comparatively clean natural gas is portrayed as a Trojan horse that will bring “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities.” The morphing of natural gas from ‘a necessary alternative to dirtier energy’ to ‘worse than oil and coal’ happened, metaphorically, almost overnight. What’s behind this seismic turnaround?There are two factors, one widely reported and the other ignored: (1) advances in gas exploration and extraction fracking technology; and (2) a below-the-radar outpouring of funding by connected, wealthy anti-shale gas antagonists—and one activist philanthropy in particular, the Park Foundation headquartered at the epicenter of the US shale gas boom in Ithaca, New York. It’s also the home of Cornell University, which has become the academic face of the anti-shale gas movement...