Energy. Environment. Economy.

Opponents question climate benefits, morality of natural gas

Rev. Dr. Leah Schade is a pastor with the United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg. She wore a shirt that ready, "Where would Jesus frack?"

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Rev. Dr. Leah Schade is with the United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg. She wore a shirt that read, "Where would Jesus frack?"

An interfaith group of religious organizations held a rally at the state Capitol Monday, calling on Governor Tom Wolf to halt natural gas development. About 50 people attended the event and asked the governor for what they called a “moral-torium” on unconventional gas development and related infrastructure, such as pipelines.

“We are calling on our legislators to listen to science and protect public health,” says Rev. Dr. Leah Schade of the United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg. “This is one area where science and religion are actually in agreement.”

She pointed to climate-damaging methane emissions and water contamination from the drilling boom.

At the same time, the House Democratic Policy Committee was meeting in another part of the Capitol to discuss whether the state should be incentivizing the use of natural gas.

“There’s a difference between whether natural gas production is good and whether it should be incentivized by the state,” says Rep. Greg Vitali (D- Delaware), who hosted the hearing.

The hearing’s panelists included members of the Wolf administration in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), as well as climate scientists and representatives from environmental groups. Vitali invited UGI and the gas trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition to testify, but he says both declined.

Professor Don Brown of Widener University told the committee the world faces catastrophic warming if governments fail to quickly curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Most mainstream scientists are screaming ‘We have an emergency here.’” says Brown. “The harms from Pennsylvania emissions are not simply to Pennsylvanians, they are to the rest of the world. Pennsylvania should be carbon neutral no later than 2040. That means we’ve got to substitute non-fossil fuels for all fossil fuels, including natural gas.”

Professor Robert Howarth of Cornell called gas “disastrous.”

“Yes, natural gas is a clean-burning fuel,” he told the committee. “But natural gas is overwhelmingly composed of methane, which is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas.”

Howarth sparked controversy several years ago when he published a paper which found– from a climate perspective– natural gas is worse than coal. He was criticized by fellow academics and the oil and gas industry. The Pennsylvania DEP attempted to keep his research out of its 2013 report on climate change.

Howarth told the committee he’d stepped into a hornet’s nest with the paper but that, “We did what we wanted, which was to spur additional research.”

Since then Colorado, Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have all taken steps to tighten methane emissions from oil and gas development.

Wolf often says he wants Pennsylvania’s gas industry to succeed. At the same time, he has ratcheted up environmental regulations for drillers and called for a new tax on production.

“DCED wants to maximize opportunities for natural gas projects,” agency spokeswoman Denise Brinley told the committee. “Pennsylvania needs to become more than a producer of natural gas. The commonwealth also needs our businesses and residents to become consumers.”

The state’s 2012 oil and gas law, known as Act 13, provides $20 million in grants for natural gas vehicle conversions, and the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program promotes the use of natural gas in transportation. Wolf has also proposed what’s known as a “last-mile” initiative, to connect gas pipelines to manufacturers who could make use of the fuel.


  • Jim Willis

    I question the morality of so-called “religious” leaders who worship the earth rather than the God they profess to worship.

    • acm

      Didn’t God entrust the earth to us as stewards to look after it? There’s no conflict or hypocrasy here.

      • Tom Servo

        Where would Jesus Drill?

      • Reddler

        There is hypocrisy if they heat homes and churches with nat gas. And isn’t methane natural? Isn’t God responsible for ‘natural’? Guess you can blame God for every time a cow farts.

    • Lilace Mellin Guignard

      You cannot separate the creator from the creation.

    • Maker1870

      Well considering it’s people who live on the Earth and need clean air and water from it, I’d say you’re not quite correct in your sentiment.

  • steve48

    None of the energy we use is causing climate change so it really makes no difference what Pa. does from that standpoint.

  • JRobb

    Global Warming from CO2 is totally bogus.Temperatures are adjusted to fit the Theory. Science to move from Theory to Fact requires demonstration in the Laboratory and Observation in the Real World. Neither has been done. Hydro Carbon Pollution is another boondoggle. Sulfuric Acid and Nitric Oxide are both Fertilizers that make plants grow and produce Food, same with CO2. Make these dreamers who call themselves Scientists prove their Theories. On Coal Power Plant emissions make them go downwind of 100 different Coal Plants in different areas and prove that there is Mercury in plants, animals and humans that is greater than on the upwind side of the Power Plants. Make them do a quick study of the Lawn Fertilizers offered for sale at their local Garden Shop. Make the sudies use Scientists that are not being enriched by Tax Grants or Donations by delusional Greenie Tree Huggers.

    • CitizenSane1

      More seeds of doubt planted by industry trolls and shills. Don’t buy into the carefully vetted and well rehearsed public relations talking points parroted by the industry reps, or “scientists” that are funded by the industry to back the research into their desired conclusion.

  • kevin jorgensen

    Bet they all drove a car to the rally… and even if it was electric, its carbon footprint was far from zero. Bet they all plug their iphones into a fossil fuel powered grid and internet. Bet they all heat their homes with something that puts a lot more pollution into the atmosphere than natural gas. These people are all the characters in that cartoon where the protagonist is sawing the tree branch they are sitting on… we all know how it ends.

    • CitizenSane1

      So, you’re comments suggest that anyone who genuinely cares about the health and safety of their families and communities that are being ruined and abused by this industry should either shut-up and go away, or do without electricity, heat, and transportation. Odd how you completely dismiss the expanded use of renewable energy sources to establish a sustainable society. Please don’t insult people’s intelligence – and your own, by making misleading statements like; “What will happen when the sun goes down and the wind doesn’t blow?” because most people are aware of the advancements that have been made in solar, solar voltaic, turbine-less wind generators, electricity storage via battery technology, geo-thermal, etc. Here’s the challenge: Give people the option on where and how their energy is generated, and see what they choose. We can reduce our carbon footprint by 85%. The technology exists. What is lacking is the political will thanks to the deep pocketed corporate lobbyists. That is something that is about to change, and that change is coming from the bottom up, one community at a time.

  • kevin jorgensen

    Guess you have to wonder about those who worship creation instead of the creator… there’s a verse for that…

  • Tom Radecki

    Wolf is going in the right direction by stopping the leasing of public lands for natural gas extraction. However, we have a true climate emergency. The science is rock solid. All fossil fuels must be left in the ground. We don’t need them. Their pollution is killing us and it will get much, much worse.

    My Leaf runs fine of wind energy. I use good insulation instead of a furnace for my winter warmth. Chicken and vegan are much healthier than beef. No AC and vacation locally. We all need to go fossil free today. The evidence is right outside your door. The U.S. just had its warmest winter in history right after its warmest autumn in history.

    Global warming is going to kill billions of humans this century and destroy a huge amount of American farmland, turning our Midwest into desert. While Pennsylvania won’t be affected as severely as other parts of our nation, we are certain to be forced to suffer the economic consequences along with them.

    • Brian Gabriel Comeaux

      Radecki, what kills people is cold. You and your luddite friends wage war on the poor and the elderly by doing your best to deny them inexpensive energy and utilities. Cold kills while inexpensive natural gas heats homes. There is nothing wrong with wind and solar, but until the intermittency problem is solved with reliable and inexpensive energy storage, they have no hope of filling our energy needs. Frankly, some other source of clean, cheap energy will probably supplant fossil fuels before wind and solar become a viable option.

      • Julieann Wozniak

        I’m poor. I’m old. I want rooftop solar because gas is NOT cheap. Oh, maybe it’s cheap as a Wall Street investment. What we end users are forced to pay Columbia Gas PA is most definitely not. Usurious is the word I would use. Meanwhile, the price of solar (for end users) is way down. I’d love to go off grid and tell West Penn Power and the gas company to stick it where the sun don’t shine! And I have the technical knowledge to make such a project “go” on my own; just lack the initial outlay.

        BTW, the Columbia gas service line for the entire town crosses my woodlot. The 80-year-old leaky service line, which they keep promising to replace. If life were truly fair, I’d get a discount. And whenever there’s a bad storm? No electricity for three or four days; the glories of rural living.

      • Tom Radecki

        Brian, who do you think you’re writing to. I’m 70 and living on social security. Yes, I’m mostly vegan to do my part to reduce the death of humans and animals later this century due to AGW. But, I’m also vegan because it’s less expensive. I only buy chicken when it’s on sale due to its package date at Walmart and never eat in restaurants. Don’t tell me about the poor and elderly. I’m also there.

        Iowa is getting over 30% of its electricity from wind and rapidly expanding it. There is no intermittency problem with high energy DC grid lines moving power over long distances. Land-based wind energy power purchase agreements in 2014 in the U.S. sold electricity to power companies for just 2.3 cents per kWh. There’s no way that natural gas can compete with that. I would suggest that you study science and engineering facts and research before insulting the poor and elderly like me.

    • Tom Servo

      Radecki = another rich f*ck who doesn’t care what poor people have to do to warm themselves or stay alive.

  • Stabilizer

    How can gas be moral or immoral? Yes, CO2 is clearly the cause of warming and yes, it’s human sourced, but it’s already too late. CO2 requires 100 years to drift high enough to matter. What we are seeing today is the result of industrial activity before TEDDY ROOSEVELT was President. It’s never too late to act but it’s far too late to prevent massive temperature increase and flooding. The first thing we need to do is get the irresponsible repub voters to start taking responsibility for their actions and ADMIT to what we all have caused, rather than deny deny deny and saddle their grandchildren with the cost of their mistakes.

  • Stabilizer

    You have to laugh at the irresponsible people who try to claim that while CO2 is the cause of AGW, the fact that 90% of the CO2 is of human origin has nothing to do with it. I hope they all rot in hell for being too cowardly to accept responsibility for their actions and forcing their grandchildren to clean up their mess.

  • rockjockpa

    What an ironic twist to morality. Just how moral is it to advocate to ban
    fracking? Don’t they realize that it will necessarily drive up the costs
    of energy significantly? How heartless or apparently naive are these self-appointed social justice warriors?

    It is the most unfortunate among us that are disproportionately affected by rising energy costs. The poor, the elderly, those on fixed incomes will be hardest hit by the rising costs. These people will likely have to decide between heating their homes and putting food on the table for their families, all because of senseless,
    politically driven agendas.

    Compassionate energy policy would
    support the poorest among us by encouraging low cost energy via
    fracking. I, for one, will not stand idly by while these eco-extremists
    actively work to make the lives of the impoverished among us even

    It appears that one man’s justice is another man’s oppression.

  • Tom Servo

    I love how leftists love to claim “it’s all about science!!!!” and then they instantly mobilize a pack of soft headed religious zealots to march for them.

    ALSO as far as warming is concerned, if any of them HAD looked at the science they would know that natural gas is the best possible bridge fuel to take the place of coal. But since this is really all about religion, they don’t care about that.

    • Meenal Raval

      The science has been considered. And the only way, and I mean this, the only way, natural gas could be a bridge, is if we were simultaneously ramping up our wind & solar plants whilst decommissioning the coal plants. Otherwise, we’re just raping our own countryside for short-term gain for the fossil fuel industry.

  • LeeVonHart

    fracking is attacked by left now, when it was seen as completely preferable until it starting succeeding. operative word, success, obviously the leftists didn’t realize how much we had.

    • CitizenSane1

      Success for who? The multinational corporations? Countries like China, India, Japan, Norway, Great Britain, and Canada that these corporations will be exporting this gas to? Once the domestic supply decreases as the demand for imports increases, energy costs in the US will skyrocket. If this resource is “so vital to US energy independence” then we should not be exporting it. The truth is, “energy independence”, and “lower domestic energy costs” are nothing more than misleading talking points to gain “public acceptance”. The reality is that these O&G corporations, like ALL corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to their share holders and investors to reap for them the highest return on their investment, and they do that by minimizing operating costs (i.e. less regulation and oversight), and by selling their product in the highest paying market (overseas which is 5x higher than the US domestic price).

      • Boehner is a drunk

        Canada exports natural gas, they don’t import it!

        • CitizenSane1
          • Boehner is a drunk

            You dumba $$. They are a net exporter of natural gas. Check your facts.

          • CitizenSane1

            Name calling. The desperate act of someone who can’t deal with the facts. How sad.

          • Boehner is a drunk

            Hardly hotshot. You throw out lies and expect no one to know better. I gave u the facts. Check the link. Pompous ass. Anything else you need schooled on?? If not go back to your corner. Lesson over…dude.

          • Boehner is a drunk

            Hey idiot, ngls are not natural gas (methane), you know, the stuff u warm ur fat ass with in winter. Give it up. U are making a bigger a $$ of yourself.

          • Boehner is a drunk
  • Meenal Raval

    I have a problem with the DCED quote:

    “DCED wants to maximize opportunities for natural gas projects,” agency spokeswoman Denise Brinley told the committee. “Pennsylvania needs to become more than a producer of natural gas. The commonwealth also needs our businesses and residents to become consumers.”

    Has the Commonwealth stepped outside it’s own echo chamber and asked our businesses & residents if they wish to consume more gas? If you did, you might hear:

    Not at the expense of creating undrinkable water; or
    Keep it in the ground. I’d prefer wind or solar, thank you very much.

  • Uncle Sam Gone Bad

    Liberalism and religion is never a good mix.

    • CitizenSane1

      This is NOT a partisan-political/conservative-liberal issue at all. It is a civil rights/community rights/public health and safety issue. attempting to make this a political issue is simply a distraction. The people in the communities that have been impacted who are resisting this massive industrialization are republicans, democrats, and independents.

  • Emptybee

    Dear professors Brown and Howarth: Please get back to me when you figure out how to make an iPhone – or hundreds of other products we consider “essential” – without using petrochemicals.

  • Jack Sprat

    Funny thing, a few years ago people were crying about “deforestation” and how humans had been taking too much land and destroying plant life and forests and stuff but NOW, when it comes to things like CO2 emissions (and yes, methane) we want to cut these gases from being produced and released into the air. Um, plants and trees happen to THRIVE in high CO2 concentrations and do even better when the climate is not as cold (not desert-heat but, not freezing). That’s kind of why they’re called “greenhouse” gases and the climate change is called the “greenhouse effect,” because it’s simulating greenhouse conditions which plants actually enjoy. I seriously think we need to stop being as scared of the “emission” end of things like CO2 and worry more about managing plants better as far as land and water go so they can absorb these gases and provide something useful like, you know, the oxygen we breathe? And all these fruits and vegetables we eat? Oh, and the grains that feed the meat we eat, too. It will also benefit us when it comes to the methane issue as well if we have better “plant management” because there are natural methods of dealing with that as well. And yes, I know that a lot of methane comes from animal farms but there are also very real and positive methods for capturing it and using it in cheaper fuel production. (Personally, I think some of the climate-change information that’s posted is more anti-corporate than anything else, even if it does have a basis in some science.)

  • Wendy Lynne Lee

    Here’s an ugly fact that needs to be repeated–over and over: the coalition that is Pennsylvanians Against Fracking is NOT opposed to fracking. They know and have known that the gas wolf Governor Wolf will not impose a moratorium, and will certainly never consider a ban.

    PAF knows that 50 people on the steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg will have zero effect on the governor.

    PAF knows that the facts are that those 50 people have precisely the opposite effect on either the governor or the gas industry who–seeing this paltry turnout–are actually galvanized and comforted. The industry is secure in knowing that if that’s the best the anti-fracking movement can do, they’ve got nothing to worry about.

    PAF knows that there is no regulation that can justify the continuation of the extractive industries–yet they consistently concede to “best practices” and “regulation” because they know that so long as they can appear to be “anti-fracking,” they can continue to promote themselves as “activists,” standing on those steps–making careers out of “fracktivism.”

    PAF knows that their coalition members will never even consider significant acts of civil disobedience–and they know that the governor and the gas industry all know this too.

    PAF knows that the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions–and hence the cause of climate change–are factory farms–but they neither join forces with the anti-animal agriculture movement, they don’t even become vegetarians.

    PAF knows that the only way their movement’s going to get national attention on any scale that could make any difference is when many more of us become willing to stand still while the pepper spray smashes into our faces and we’re loaded into paddy wagons.

    PAF knows that what civil disobedience means isn’t that we resort to violence–but that we become brave enough to let the world see what this industry will really do to us when we finally say “no more.”

    For more, please see:

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