Do Democratic losses mean a win for natural gas?
The natural gas industry looks to the future after Democratic losses in the 2010 election.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Living on Earth. For more, listen to the audio above.
After the Democratic Party's loses in the recent election, many Democrats are scrambling to find areas where both parties can compromise and work together. In a recent press conference President Obama said that natural gas is one issue where he believes there is a lot of room for compromise.
In recent years, the price of natural gas in the country has dropped dramatically and is now almost as cheap as coal, most due to technological developments. Halliburton has led the way with these developments by creating a process called "hydraulic fracking" that can reach natural gas that was never before accessible. Since developing the process, though, they have been subpoenaed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for refusing to disclose the chemicals used extract the gas.
Congressional Democrats had been pushing for a bill that would limit ground contamination from hydraulic fracking, but most of the co-sponsors of the bill lost in the last election. Republican Strategist Karl Rove went so far as to say that Republican victories mean that the natural gas industry does not need to worry about more regulation from the government.
Rove may be mistaken, according to Chris Tucker, spokesman for Energy in Depth, a group that does public relations work for natural gas companies. Tucker told PRI's Living on Earth that Republican victories don't necessarily mean that there will be less government intervention. He said, "It'd be an easy analysis to put together to say, oh, well, Republicans win so, we're good to go, we're just going to drill everywhere. Well that's just not the case."
Tucker says the EPA is in the midst of a thorough review of hydraulic fracturing and some companies are voluntarily disclosing fracking chemicals. He added that concerns about water quality are likely more regional than partisan. The industry prefers to keep regulation at the state level, and that means state election results could have a big impact.
While many grassroots environmental groups are focused on the potential damage from drilling, some Washington environmental groups want to expand the use of natural gas, because it's much cleaner burning than coal or oil.
"Natural gas produces 50 percent less global warming pollution compared to coal and about one third les compared to oil," according to Dan Weiss, who works on climate strategy at the Democratic-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. He believes that expansion of natural gas as a fuel could reduce emissions by a sizeable amount.
The first test of bipartisan cooperation could come in the lame duck session of Congress. The Senate is set to vote on a bill to use more natural gas for heavy-duty trucks. The co-sponsors are Democratic leader Harry Reid and conservative Republican Tom Coburn.
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."