Greg Kozera: Time for a reality check on energy
More than six years ago I retired from the natural gas and oil industry. I thought I had everything planned until I began worrying about my children and grandchildren's future.
Without clean, affordable, dependable, domestic energy, they will have a very cold, dark future.
If we have to depend on foreign powers for our energy, they won't be free. My retirement was short - one day. A friend called out of the blue with a job offer and I was back in the industry. Now with development of our shale reservoirs we can be energy independent and won't need OPEC.
Energy is basic to our life and our freedom. Sadly many people take energy for granted as long as the lights come on, our computers and smart phones operate and there is heat when we turn up the thermostat.
Many of us saw in the summer of 2012 after the derecho what it was like without electricity. But even now many people don't know that coal, oil and natural gas provide most of our energy and are irreplaceable unless we move to nuclear or some other as yet undiscovered power source.
We are still having debates on the safety and need of "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing).
Few people know that more than 1.5 million wells have been safely fractured since 1947 with NO documented cases of groundwater contamination. Lisa Jackson, former EPA Director agrees. More than 90 percent of all wells drilled in the United States require fracking.
Most people don't know that without fracking our domestic oil and gas industry would cease to exist.
Don't worry. Our "friends" at OPEC or Russia (who also uses fracking) will gladly sell us oil and natural gas at their prices.
I don't understand groups that want to see our oil and gas industry shut down so that we can become fully dependent on Russia, as Europe, is for its natural gas. Russia does far less to protect the environment than the United States.
We have our military currently in the Middle East to protect the flow of oil. Would our brave men and women still be in harm's way if we didn't need OPEC oil? Energy independence is the best way I can see to bring our loved ones home. Maybe those that want to shut our energy industry down don't have or know someone in the military.
Few know that fracking is a single or several day event that occurs only once in the 30 plus year life of a typical well or that fracking is an engineered process injecting fluid or a gas under pressure deep underground to create a fracture (crack) in reservoir rock. This allows oil and gas to flow from the reservoir to the wellbore.
We know from basic engineering and underground observations that fracks cannot go up into groundwater. This isn't theory or a study. We lived with our children in the middle of oil and gas fields where all of the wells were fracked. Our water well was fine. We never saw any of those dangerous fracking things that we now hear and read about. Our kids are all healthy.
The most dangerous threat to our water is always our neighbor's unregulated water well near his septic tank or pig pen.
Few people know that thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing and our abundant natural gas supply, that carbon dioxide levels are the lowest they have been in over 20 years.
We almost met our Kyoto Treaty goals thanks not to government but thanks to free market forces and the increased use of natural gas.
The steel and chemical industries are coming back to the United States because of our now-abundant natural gas bringing jobs with them. But just as important, steel and chemical plants built here in the United States operate under some of the strictest environmental laws in the world.
If these plants had been built in India, China, Russia or the Middle East, where there is little or no environmental regulation, our planet would suffer. Pollution does not stop at a country's border. Our West Coast is dealing with mercury from Chinese power plants.
We can have both abundant energy and a cleaner environment. For example, as the president of the Virginia Oil & Gas Association, I'm working with our member companies to partner with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to successfully repopulate emerging species that thrive on first-growth grasslands on reclaimed coal strip mine property and gas well sites, creating an increase in deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, birds and even butterflies.
This partnership also resulted in the first successful reintroduction of a herd of elk to Virginia in more than 100 years. This isn't limited to Virginia.
We always hear about "green energy" like wind and solar but we never hear about the environmental damage done by mining rare earth metals in China that are used in wind turbines and solar panels.
We don't hear about the half a million birds and bats killed annually by windmills, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This includes endangered species. It would make front-page news if an old bald eagle dropped dead on a well site, but what if a few bald eagles or other rare birds get wacked by windmills?
Most people don't know that a horizontal well site takes up less surface area than a single windmill after reclamation and encourages growth of wildlife and birds. Even with windmills and solar power, we still need natural gas.
In order to maintain stability, the electric grid requires 100 percent backup of these intermittent energy sources. Natural gas is the only energy source that can quickly produce electricity to back up wind and solar power.
I believe it can be shown that the natural gas industry has done more to improve the environment of the planet in the last five years than the Environmental Protection Agency and many of the groups that claim to be concerned about the environment.
If we all work together for the greater good we can have abundant domestic energy and a cleaner planet. It is important that our laws and regulations be based on sound science and engineering rather than fear and fallacy.
We need energy to survive. Life without fracking is life without the fundamentals of life. We all need to do our part for freedom by being informed with the truth. Don't we want the best for our children and grandchildren?
Kozera, of Elkview, is a registered professional engineer with 35 years experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He is the author of three books and numerous articles and technical papers.