October 2021 Vol. 76 No. 10

Editor's Log

Editor's Log: Be Careful What You Ask For

By Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief

Whatever happened to common sense? If something is working, why toss it away like two-week-old lasagna? 

Natural gas prices have more than tripled in 2021, climbing above $5.10 per BTU at press time. Crude oil, after slipping into negative territory last year, has since rebounded to the $75-per-barrel range. Most prognosticators are estimating that prices will further strengthen and increase throughout 2022. It’s a remarkable turnaround for an industry vilified by much of the country – and indeed, the world. 

Several factors have contributed to the dramatic turnaround of oil and gas pricing. Economies are steadily returning to normal as COVID fears and issues continue to evaporate. Combine that with projections for a harsh winter, and demand for gas and oil is suddenly reinforced – this after a period of political upheaval that has included heavy pressure to shift to alternative power sources. 

When energy prices dipped to zero early in the pandemic, certain politicians were celebrating the death of an industry. They were predicting the final termination of an industry they now deplore. It’s the very same industry that had made modern society and our amazing quality of life possible; an industry that employs scores of thousands around the world with great jobs and benefits. 

And it’s an industry that has facilitated all kinds of blessings we take for granted every time we simply turn on the lights in the living room; cook dinner with food from the refrigerator; drive our car to the store or a friend’s house; and visit relatives halfway around the world within just a few hours. And lest we forget all the benefits from oil and gas derivatives that have elevated our world to new levels thanks to medicines, plastics, and other benefits far too long to list here – all the result of petrochemicals. 

Oil, coal and gas have become the bane of every environmental and climate zealot across the world. Those industries remain under attack by politicians and a public blissfully unaware its own ignorance, as demonstrated by the vitriol they spew. 

Yes, most will readily agree the time has come to move away from our dependence upon fossil fuels, especially coal. Even those in the oil and gas industry acknowledge it’s time to shift directions and actively seek other options. But we must do so in a strategic and pragmatic manner. To do anything less would be a recipe for economic disaster and a fall from the lofty levels from which we celebrate our lives today. 

Moving away from coal (the dirtiest fuel) immediately, and fuel oil and similar such energy sources quickly, is an easy interim answer. We now know that sources can easily be replaced by natural gas. It burns immensely cleaner while providing energy in a safe, efficient manner. The reduction in carbon emissions is immediate. We gain much and lose less by switching to gas. Time and time again, gas has proven that it is a reliable, efficient, environmentally friendly fuel capable of meeting all our energy needs until similar quantities and results can be found with an alternative source(s). But as of today, that scenario largely remains a dream. 

Still, knowing the limitations of the alternative fuel industry, as it stands today, hasn’t prevented certain cities and states around the country from seeking to politicize the natural gas solution. They’ve declared gas must go and placed a ban on modern applications that require it as a fuel source – including cooking and heating homes. They want all appliances and heating/cooling for homes and businesses to use “clean” electric power. They demand new building construction must be all-electric. 

These miscreants seek the extremists’ approval of their knee-jerk actions. The local politicians and activists fail to consider the impacts of their actions. Electricity is not captured from lightning in the sky. It is created at power plants fueled historically by coal. By continuing the trend of switching to natural gas, carbon emissions fall tremendously. 

Another example is that if all trucks (just trucks, not cars) in the United States were to immediately switch to using liquified natural gas for fuel, air pollution would be almost totally eliminated in a matter of months. Sadly, practical solutions such as this are completely ignored since it still involves a carbon-based fuel. 

Those in the current oil and gas industries are not bad people. These businesses, as a rule, are excellent corporate citizens. The irony is that the power generation industry in America knows that the time for change has arrived. Companies are actively engaging in further developing alternative fuel sources, while spending billions seeking new and improved sources of energy. I’ve read both private and government reports that conclude the solution to replacing current carbon fuel challenges hasn’t been developed – or perhaps even discovered – yet. But it will be soon. 

For now, the world has discovered just how much it needs oil and gas – especially at reasonable prices. We will find better energy solutions with no carbon emissions. But even now, we have answers to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. The changes can’t – and won’t – happen overnight, unless we want to surrender the legacy that our parents, grandparents and ancestors sacrificed so much to provide. 

Time to change, yes. Time to abandon gas and oil, no.

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