Thursday, November 04, 2010

Obama names natural-gas development as possible area of compromise with Republicans

"President Obama's newfound interest in expanded natural gas drilling yesterday surprised many on all sides of the drilling debate, from environmentalists to drillers and even the coal industry," Mike Soraghan reports for Environment & Energy News. "Representatives of drilling groups said they had no idea that Obama would make natural gas his lead olive branch to the newly empowered Capitol Hill Republicans. But they were pleased that he did."

Obama seemed to refer to the great expansion of available natural-gas resources caused by improvements in hydraulic fracturing, allowing the long-used technique to tap gas found in deep, dense formations such as the Marcellus Shale. Asked to name possible areas of compromise with Republicans, the president said, "We've got, I think, broad agreement that we've got terrific natural gas resources in this country. Are we doing everything we can to develop those?"

Obama's remarks were "his strongest public comments to date in support of natural gas," said America's Natural Gas Alliance, a lobbying group. But coal interests, who are "feuding with gas producers about replacing coal generation with gas-fired electric plants, did not appreciate Obama's apparent focus on gas," and the president did not mention coal, Soraghan reports.

And environmental groups worried that "fracking" chemicals are contaminating drinking water, and seeking federal regulation of the practice, will surely be disappointed. Soraghan does not quote them, but writes, "It remains a mystery to key players how the Obama administration's general interest in shale gas drilling rose to become a talking point at a presidential news conference at a crucial juncture in Obama's presidency." He notes that Obama energy-environment chief Carol Browner "prominently rejected the idea of federal oversight of fracturing when she was President Clinton's EPA administrator," and that the Obama administration "refused a request by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) to help slow down drilling in upstate New York and eastern Pennsylvania," the prime area for Marcellus Shale development. (Read more, subscription required)

No comments: