Cheap natural gas spawning a wave of petrochemical plants
NEW ORLEANS – An environmental watchdog group cautions that the nation’s boom in cheap natural gas, often viewed as a clean energy source, is spawning a wave of petrochemical plants that, if built, will emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases.
The Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project says hydraulic fracturing of shale rock formations and other advances, such as horizontal drilling, have made natural gas cheap and plentiful, so plentiful that the United States has begun exporting gas.
Thanks to this energy boom, the group calculated that if 44 large-scale petrochemical developments proposed or permitted in 2015 were built they would spew as much pollution as 19 new coal-fired power plants would.
The lion’s share of this recent growth, especially in 2015, was in Louisiana. In the Bayou state, 20 petrochemical projects were proposed or authorized in 2015 that are expected to produce the equivalent of 68 million tons per year of carbon dioxide, as much as 15 new coal fired power plants.
Currently, Louisiana has six coal-fired plants.
The report says this potential load of pollution needs to be considered in efforts to curb greenhouse gases.
“One answer to the problem of this increase in pollution from the petrochemical industry might be to require more efficient operations from industry”, says Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.
Schaeffer, who is former director of civil enforcement at the EPA adds “more energy conservation could have the dual benefit of reducing greenhouse gas pollution, and also, over the long run, saving money, which the businesses could reinvest in their workers and the environment.”
The Canadian Press