The “New England Coalition for Affordable Energy” is a front group of the American Petroleum Institute with one goal: Build new and expanded fracked gas pipelines. But State House News Service recently reported on a “survey” by the Coalition without ever mentioning the American Petroleum Institute.
What’s most telling about the survey is the words it carefully avoids mentioning. It never says climate change, fracking, or pollution. It also never gives respondents a choice between fracked gas and clean energy (or maybe they just didn’t release those questions).
Keep in mind these results come despite questions carefully crafted to get the best answers for Big Oil:
- Only 35% of New Englanders say they’re very concerned about the cost of energy
- Only 30% strongly favor new gas pipelines, lower than the total that strongly or somewhat oppose them (31%)
- 39% say they’re not concerned about letting gas pipelines expand, compared to just 19% who say they’re very concerned. For state politicians, this is the support on which you’re going to base a pipeline tax?
The results should be sobering for politicians like Gov. Charlie Baker considering whether to support a tax for new or expanded gas pipelines. It gets even worse when you take a look at the electricity bills of the states most dependent on fracked gas.
Does Dependence on Fracked Gas Bring Down Prices?
The survey clearly shows the American Petroleum Institute wants us to believe we pay outrageously high energy costs. It’s true that Massachusetts has the 7th-highest electricity rates. But Massachusetts only pays the 31st-highest electricity bills, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That’s thanks in large part to our investments in energy efficiency. Massachusetts consistently ranks first in America in energy efficiency and those investments have delivered $1.2 billion in net economic benefits.
But what super-cheap fracked gas from Pennsylvania I hear about? Why can’t we be like them? The highest-producing gas states, their electricity bills, and where they rank on highest electricity bills in the lower 48 (all 2013 data):
- Texas, 6.86 Tcf. — $133 (4th-highest in lower 48)
- Pennsylvania, 3.23 Tcf. — $124 (10th-highest)
- Louisiana, 2.37 Tcf. — $120 (17th-highest)
- Oklahoma, 2.00 Tcf. — $111 (20th-highest)
- Louisiana — $120 (17th-highest electricity bills in lower 48)
- Oklahoma — $111 (20th-highest)
- Mississippi — $131 (6th-highest)
- Texas — $133 (4th-highest)
We Need Diversification, Not Deeper Dependence
Take a look at ISO New England at any given moment and you’ll find we’re already dependent on gas for around two-thirds of our electricity. Add in nuclear and we get more than three-fourths of our electricity from just two sources. Hydro accounts for less than 10% and renewables like wind & solar are down in the low single digits or even a fraction of a percent. We’ve barely scratched the surface of our clean energy potential.
The clean energy bill that Gov. Baker signed into law last week takes important steps forward by directing utilities to sign contracts purchasing hydroelectric power and Massachusetts offshore wind power. Wind and solar may cost a little bit more, but they have huge stabilizing effects. During 2014’s polar vortex, wind energy saved Midwest consumers more than $1 billion by under-bidding attempts by coal, gas & nuclear power to gouge consumers during peak demand.
Meanwhile, fracked gas is scientifically shown to destabilize our climate, pollute our air and drinking water, and trigger earthquakes in fracking country. And every single cubic foot Massachusetts burns is bought from out of state.
If we’re serious about safer energy and a stronger economy, we can’t invest another dime in new or expanded fracked gas infrastructure. And we can’t let the American Petroleum Institute’s ad campaign convince us otherwise.