Don’t Know Much About Energy II: A Remedial Fossil Fuels Lesson for the Speaker of the House Natural Gas

Posted August 25, 2008 | folder icon Print this page

by Brian Kennedy

In an August 16 radio address, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives outlined a plan “to take our country in a New Direction for our energy future.” Last week, the Institute for Energy Research (IER) issued an analysis of that plan, entitled, Don’t Know Much About Energy. And yesterday, the Speaker demonstrated that she may not, in fact, know very much about energy in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. It appears as though the Speaker believes natural gas is an “alternative to fossil fuels” that can be produced “naturally” like wind and solar power. From the transcript:

REP. PELOSI: You can have a transition with natural gas. That, that is cheap, abundant and clean compared to fossil fuels. So, so there is a way to transition this instead of doing more of the same.

REP. PELOSI: I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels.

REP. PELOSI: The fact is, the supply of natural gas is so big, and you do need a transition if you’re going to go from fossil fuels, as you say, you can’t do it overnight, but you must transition. These investments in wind, in solar and biofuels and focus on natural gas, these are the real alternatives.

Fossil Fuels 101: Fossil fuels – coal, petroleum (oil), and natural gas — are concentrated organic compounds found in the Earth’s crust. They are created from the remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago in the form of concentrated biomass. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuels meet around 85 percent of U.S. energy demand.

Natural Gas 101: Natural gas is colorless, odorless fossil fuel that is prized for its cleanliness and its many uses – including energy. It is produced in much the same way as oil – by drilling for it – and is often produced in conjunction with oil. Natural gas is a principal component of modern chemistry and, as such, plays a central role in our quality of life. It is an essential material in such products as paints, plastics, fertilizer, antifreeze, dyes and medicines.

As one of the most versatile building blocks of our way of life, it is consumed by industry as both an energy source and a basic feedstock. Families and businesses depend on it for heating and cooling. It has increasingly been viewed as a dependable and clean transportation fuel, powering urban mass transportation systems reliably and safely. It also holds great promise as a reliable source of hydrogen. Few Americans go a day without its use in some form or fashion.

American Supplies: While her position on this may change when she learns that natural gas is actually a fossil fuel produced by ‘Big Oil’ companies, the Speaker is actually correct in stating that America’s natural gas supply is big. It’s massive, in fact. The United States has enough natural gas onshore and offshore to meet all of its natural gas needs (industrial, residential and commercial, electric, transportation) for at least another 50 years. Developing these supplies in the future will require access to federal lands, and exploration and production drilling activities.

Lesson Summary: Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is both abundant in the U.S. and integral to our quality of life. Drilling is required in order to produce it.

So, if the Speaker of the House supports new drilling for natural gas (mostly done in conjunction with drilling for oil) maybe there’s hope for this Congress after all, right? Don’t count on it. More from the transcript:

MR. BROKAW: Sounds like we’re going to have offshore drilling.

REP. PELOSI: No, no, no.

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