March 22, 2012, 1:44 PM
Natural gas may be plentiful, cheap and inviting at the moment. But the fracking process to get it still fans the flames of environmental policy clashes.
At the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference outside Santa Barbara, Calif., drillers and environmentalists debated over whether fracking posed a danger to the communities they serve. Drillers said that the amount of natural gas available –4,000 trillion cubic feet — can’t be ignored.
“There is so much there, which is shown by what prices are,” said Edward Cohen, chief executive of Atlas Energy .
But Paul Gallay, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper, challenged Cohen and Aubrey McClendon, chairman of Chesapeake Energy . Gallay says countless environmental hazards are involved. He said there were high amounts of benzine in the air around the Fort Worth, Texas, area, where fracking has been taking place. There also have been problems in the air in parts of Colorado, where there are five times the number of pollutants compared with the national average.
“This is snake oil. This is not natural gas, folks,” Gallay said. He added once demand rises for natural gas, prices won’t be so cheap.
McClendon, however, said natural gas needs to rise by 800% in order to equal the cost of oil. And it’s needed in order to wean the U.S. off oil from the Middle East.