Those who use natural gas for heating, cooking, and even transportation, generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional propane, gasoline, or diesel fuel.
Thanks to the abundance of natural gas, these user also spend much less on fuel for the same tasks. Building owners in New York City, for example, have been upgrading their systems to run cleaner and cheaper natural gas. One particular building on the Upper East Side, with one hundred apartments, will need about $300,000 in retrofitting, including pipelines and equipment, to make the switch from heating oil to natural gas. Once the building switches over, they’ll save about 50% in energy costs and the system should pay for itself in about three years. Utility company Con Edison says more than 1,000 New York City buildings have already been converted to natural gas.
Head west, however, and you’ll find where the natural gas is coming from. New York City doesn’t get it its natural gas from New York State, where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has proven to be controversial enough to keep it from being legalized. Instead, New York City’s natural gas is piped in from Pennsylvania, where the boom in fracking has been bringing jobs and money into the state. Fracking has flooded the market with natural gas, but this has proven to be a two-edged sword. On the one hand, natural gas itself burns cleaner than other options. It’s also cheaper to buy, because of its abundance. Unfortunately, there is also a weighty other hand, thanks to natural gas emissions from the wells themselves, far worse than any carbon dioxide emissions saved, water pollution on a grand scale, and greater threat of earthquakes.
New York City may be benefiting from cheap and clean natural gas, but the pollution is basically two states over, and natural gas emissions know no state lines. Just like many Pennsylvanians commute to New York City, so does Pennsylvanian natural gas. How long until Pennsylvanian fracking pollution makes the same commute?