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Maryland should expand natural gas

In South Montrose, Pa., employees of Cabot Oil and Gas work on a natural gas valve at a hydraulic fracturing site. Fracking stimulates gas production by injecting wells with high volumes of chemical-laced water in order to free-up pockets of natural gas below.
In South Montrose, Pa., employees of Cabot Oil and Gas work on a natural gas valve at a hydraulic fracturing site. Fracking stimulates gas production by injecting wells with high volumes of chemical-laced water in order to free-up pockets of natural gas below. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Congratulations to The Sun’s editorial board for pioneering new frontiers in NIMBY-ism. Unsatisfied that Maryland has banned fracking in the state — along with the opportunity to create jobs and supply our own affordable, clean energy — The Sun now wants to curtail the transport and use of natural gas produced in other states (“Is $103 million expansion of gas service the best Md. can do?” Feb. 26).

Technically, this position is more “Not in Your Back Yard” than “Not in My Back Yard.” But it’s terrible public policy, whatever you call it. Just ask New England. Despite plentiful natural gas supplies in nearby Pennsylvania, the region is home to seven of the top 10 most expensive states for electricity costs. Why? Failure to build sufficient infrastructure needed to deliver natural gas to homes and businesses.

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Adequate natural gas service and infrastructure can help Maryland avoid that costly path. As natural gas use for heating and electricity has increased in Maryland, household costs have dropped 26 percent while emissions of carbon dioxide from power generation fell 39 percent, and nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions also fell. In other words, natural gas not only provides affordable energy but has significantly contributed to cleaner air in Baltimore. What about pipeline safety? The latest data show pipelines deliver 99.99 percent of their products safely. And methane emissions have declined 16 percent even as natural gas output has increased 52 percent.

A final point: Massachusetts made headlines for welcoming a natural gas tanker containing Russian natural gas a few weeks ago, demonstrating eloquently that state renewable energy policies can’t magically erase the need for natural gas. Even under optimistic scenarios for renewable energy growth, government projections show that our industry will supply an estimated 60 percent of U.S. energy needs in 2040. For solar and wind to even work as a baseload electric source of power, you need natural gas when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

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Maryland doesn’t have to choose between environmental progress and affordable energy. With the right infrastructure and practical policy choices, natural gas can help supply both.

Drew Cobbs, Annapolis

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council.

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