Yesterday two Reports--one from the DOE Shale Gas Commission and the other from NRDC--move the related issues of air quality and natural gas production to center stage. NRDC states that 2012 Code Orange unhealthy air alerts have been issued across America so far in 2011 (see the prior posting).
And yesterday, to the surprise of some, the DOE Shale Gas Commission's Report gave more prominence to air pollutant emissions from gas production than to gas drilling's impact on water.
The issues of America's still too often unhealthy air and natural gas are tightly linked.
Using more natural gas to replace old-coal plants with limited pollution controls will substantially cut toxic air pollutants, soot, acid rain, and smog precursors at the power plants that generate electricity. And the generation of electricity plus transportation are the two sectors that cause most air pollution so reducing air pollutants from electricity generation is a key to eliminating Code Orange health alerts.
Natural gas, therefore, is part of the solution to local, regional, and national air quality problems as long as the air emissions from producing the gas are controlled by using the best technologies and practices. But if the gas industry uses the dirty production options, natural gas production itself can create dirty air. In Wyoming that has happened in counties where gas production is concentrated.
Natural gas must remain a solution to and not become a cause of air quality problems. Hence the most important section of the Report of the DOE Shale Gas Commission is the air quality discussion.