On September 23, 2009, John Felmy, the chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute (API) spoke at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA about the vast opportunities that the API sees for developing the shale gas that is buried about 6,000 feet below the surface. Warning: Felmy is a self-admitted boring economist, but he does a pretty fair job of describing why the oil and gas industry is promoting the Marcellus Shale development so vigorously.
Here is part II:
Felmy has an interesting perspective on the energy alternatives – not a surprising one considering his employer, but one that is worth some thought and questioning about motives and desired effects.
Here is an excerpt on his discussion of the importance of natural gas:
That 23% could expand if it’s used in transportation. And, yes, it could replace oil use, but we are going to need all of the other things to be able to make that happen. The fueling stations, we’re going to need the vehicles, we’re going to need everything. But natural gas is truly a wonderful opportunity in a lot of different areas.
Here is another interesting quote about using natural gas to displace coal:
50% of our electricity is generated by coal. So that’s an important discussion in terms of what everyone is hearing about the climate debate. Because if you cannot solve that problem – situation rather er, um change the situation because I do not want to disparage coal, change the situation of how you generate your electricity, you’re not going to solve the problem.
You have to have reliable electricity supplies to be able to keep our economy going. And in that vein, natural gas is especially important. Because while you talk about generating electricity from solar, wind and geothermal, those are intermittent sources. Without backup generation from natural gas, they will not exist. (Emphasis in the original speech.)
It’s a simple fact that without gas, there’s no wind. Without gas, there’s no solar. So one of the things that will be very important going forward is establishing that link to be able to develop these new sources.
Finally, after talking about the importance of oil, gas, solar, wind, and geothermal, Felmy got around to an interesting quote about nuclear energy. I hope that you are a critical thinker who recognizes “damning with faint praise” when you hear it. It might lose a little impact in the transcription, but listen a few times to that same kind of talk coming from the competitive industries. You will start picking up a drumbeat that is working to mold the way that people think and talk about energy alternatives.
And then of course, nuclear power is roughly around 8% of our supplies. Hopefully we’ll see more nuclear power coming forward. It’s an excellent opportunity, although I must say, you know I never dreamed that it would happen possibly again. Because on March 31st, 1979, I drove by the cooling towers of Three Mile Island on the Saturday morning that they weren’t sure that it wasn’t going to explode.
Well, it didn’t. The safety systems worked, so we’ve gone forward with a very clean, very safe energy source. And hopefully that will expand.
I am sure that the reference to the accident that took place more than 30 years before the speech was not lost on the audience. After all, Williamsport is only about 90 miles north of Harrisburg and is on the same river as TMI. While mentioning all of the wonderful things about clean burning natural gas, Felmy does not say a word about explosions, mining debris, threat to water supplies, and concerns about pollution from processing and compression stations.
While mentioning the very clean and very safe nuclear energy, he makes sure that he says something that will grab the audience’s attention about the one major accident that occurred in the entire history of the US commercial nuclear power industry. Remember, the plant destroying accident at TMI did not result in any injuries to plant workers or the general public – other than the stress and fear imposed by overreaction by decision makers who did not understand the technology or the potential effects of the event. That is the kind of marketing message that nuclear advocates need to recognize and understand. We need to – individually – think about ways to respond and overcome that insidious effort to keep selling more and more fossil fuels while concentrating more wealth and power into the hands of the people who love to drill baby, drill.