Back on September 25, 2009, I wrote about a three part National Public Radio special about the U. S. domestic natural gas that portrayed the industry as a “mom and pop” enterprise made up of thousands of small companies with little political clout in Washington, DC. I expressed my skepticism about that portrayal at the time.
Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about the blitz that portrays “new natural gas” with a series of television advertisements based around “eureka” moments where everyday people learn something new about natural gas that leads them to believe that it is a good bridge fuel to the future. One of the facts that gets a lot of play is the recognition that new drilling technologies have enabled an increased reserve base, now computed to be 100 years “right here in the States” as one of the ad actresses claims. (See: New Natural Gas Commercials – Why Are They Bragging About a 100 Year Supply?)
Yesterday morning, in the bottom right hand corner of the front page of the Wall Street Journal, I noticed another example of the drumbeat being provided to both consumers and decision makers regarding the size of the US natural gas reserves. The obvious message here is that America can stop fretting about energy, after all, we have lots of this “clean, natural gas” to burn. Heck, it will supply current demand for 100 years! This new version of the message is brought to you by that tiny, powerless, “mom and pop” enterprise known as ExxonMobil. I am sure you have heard of that poor company, but did you know that its quarterly profits crashed by 68% in the most recent quarter, all the way down to $4.73 BILLION?
Please understand, I actually admire the engineering prowess that enables ExxonMobil to prosper and I am not opposed to profit. I just cannot stomach the notion that natural gas suppliers are politically or economically powerless and I cannot understand why anyone believes that the revelation that the US has enough natural gas to last us for 100 years – if we do not increase our consumption rate – is something that should discourage us as a nation from immediately seeking better, cleaner and more long lasting atomic alternatives.
Of course, it is not hard at all to understand why the companies running the advertisements want to slow down the search for alternatives – after all, what commodity supplier really likes competition from a cheaper, cleaner, more abundant rival?
Update: There is a half page editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal by Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS CERA and author of The Prize: The Search for Oil, Money and Power (1991), one of the best books about the oil and gas industry I have ever read. Today’s editorial is titled America’s Natural Gas Revolution. It again attempts to explain why we should be so exited about 100 years of gas – at current consumption rates – and discusses electricity supply options without even mentioning nuclear power. Hmmmm.