Ted Koppel moderated a panel comprised of energy policy advisors. Here is a summary of the discussion.
Mr. Koppel recalls the days of the OPEC embargo in 1973 which led to gas lines and skyrocketing gas prices. Mr. Koppel remembers experts looking for alternative sources of energy back then, but the thought was that these alternative sources would not be pursued until the price of gasoline became too expensive.
Mr. Koppel asked the panel to state the three best benefits of shale gas and shale oil. First, sustained jobs, production and lower energy costs for all. We are at 1,000 wells today and hopefully we will get to 100,000 wells. Second, the gas is a feedstock for other businesses. Low gas prices allows them to produce more products more efficiently. Refineries will remain open to service the gas industry. And third, it helps the country's security with less dependence on foreign oil and energy.
Hydraulic fracturing must be managed in an environmentally prudent manner. The industry must maintain the integrity of the drilling process that protects against unwanted surface exposures. We want to control methane emissions at the wellhead. And finally, we must be careful about contamination of deep groundwater, although there has never been a confirmed instance of aquifer contamination due to fracking.
Another important consideration is the industry's use of water. Although by comparison, the shale gas industry uses only 1 percent of the total amount of water demanded by business in Pennsylvania. We must continue to find ways to conserve and recycle water.
Economically, do we want to use the gas here, or liquify it and sell it overseas where energy costs, such as in Japan, are much higher? We are extracting gas to decrease our dependence on imported energy, and not primarily for export. Exports are not a bad thing, but the country needs a natural energy policy. While we need to look at US needs, we must also let the free market play its role.
When discussing energy, we must also consider nuclear, coal and green technologies. There was some disagreement between the panelists as to whether either Presidential candidate has a complete energy policy. Mr. Koppel asked whether shipping liquid gas overseas because of higher energy costs abroad would adversely impact the country's own energy independence. Does the government need to ensure that cheap energy is kept here to allow the US to more easily recover from this recession? These are the types of questions that must be addressed, but are difficult to answer.
Questions from the audience were then taken. One audience member asked about the hurdles to be overcome to allow cars to run on natural gas, such as what we see in Europe. The key hurdle is getting the changes that are needed in infrastructure. Again, to what extent this can be accomplished through the private sector without any input from government is an issue that must still be resolved. Natural gas running cars will be solved by the ingenuity of the private sector and the development of filling stations. Right now, 3/4 of imported gasoline is consumed by long haul 18 wheelers. The conversion of fleet vehicles would help the process and may be the best place to start.
Efforts must be taken to inform the public at large so that they more fully understand the facts about fracking and the efforts that have been taken to make the industry environmentally safe. We are getting there. There is also a need to explain the importance of the industry to our country. There was disagreement among the panelists as to the role the EPA and other government agencies have played and will continue to play.
An audience member representing Chinese industry noted that China would like to develop shale gas as well. If such technology goes to China, they should be taught to use it in a responsible manner. Presently, the US uses much more energy per capita than in China. Thus, there must be a general consensus for all countries and industries to use energy efficiently. All countries want to enhance their own security by pursuing energy independence. In the US, we also need to remain competitive with other countries in a worldwide market.