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Energy experts to gas industry: Help, don't obstruct, work on climate issues

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Energy experts to gas industry: Help, don't obstruct, work on climate issues

Naturalgas has potential to carry much of the world's energy load for the next threedecades if the industry confronts and resolves concerns about climate change,energy experts said at a recent gas industry conference.

Representativesfrom the energy industry and environmental advocacy groups at Energy DialoguesLLC's North American Gas Forum agreed that promise and challenges fill thefuture of natural gas, which is in great supply in the U.S. and in great demandin countries looking to back up renewable energy sources or reduce the use ofcoal in pursuit of economic and environmental benefits.

"Thereis a huge opportunity for natural gas … if natural gas is viewed correctly as aclean energy source," Richard Newell, president of Resources for theFuture, said in an Oct. 4 panel.

"Allthe boxes are checked," Newell said. Conventional air pollution from gascombustion is already low, he said. Gas is a great substitute for coal,especially if the methane emissions are controlled, he said. Gas can be coupledwith carbon captureand carbon storage, as shown by pilot projects in Texas.

"Ifthat carbon is sequestered in the ground, natural gas can be azero-emitter," according to Newell, a former administrator of the U.S.Energy Information Administration. "I really believe that."

Shalegas added about 20 Bcf/d of incremental production to the U.S. total over thelast four years, primarily from the Marcellus formation, Berkeley ResearchGroup Director Tom Choi observed the day before. Yet most Americans either donot know or do not care about the country's energy successes, he said.

Allthis gas can work well with renewables, said Ben Ratner, director of corporatepartnerships for the Environmental Defense Fund. His group is trying to makesure market processes and FERC rules work to provide a "package solution."

Ratnerurged the industry and its trade associations to rethink their approaches.Groups that represent the long-term interests of gas companies should"take a modernized, forward-leaning, collaborative approach that includesaccelerating the sharing of best practices, catalyzing technology developmentand innovation on these legitimate risks and challenges, and coming to thetable — or at least not interfering with some of their more forward-thinkingoperators — to develop the public policies of the future that not only theplanet needs, but are so critical to establish trust [with the public],"he said.

Somemajor industry players support the idea of collaboration. Michael Crothers,president of Shell CanadaLtd. and vice president of North American unconventionals businessat Royal Dutch Shellplc's Shell Upstream Americas, encouraged other members of theindustry to build relationships and respond to public concerns and feedback.

"Theworld needs all the energy it can get, from all different forms, and gas isgoing to be a key part of that," Crothers told the forum's largelyindustry-based crowd. "The way to enable that to happen is to continue tobuild trust. Get out there. Buildrelationships. Put more emphasis within your organizations onsocial acceptance."

"Secondly,build your credibility by aligning with environmental groups, with academicsand with government to actually create the momentum and make it easy forpoliticians to agree and move us forward as a society," he said.

"Andthird, keep thinking global," he said, "because gas has a huge roleto play in managing global greenhouse gases, not just in continental NorthAmerica."

Shelland other oil and gas companies have worked with Environmental Defense Fund andother environmental groups. Shell supports the "Rational Middle Energy Series," agroup of short films that cover energy and environmental issues by Director andProducer Gregory Kallenberg, who moderated the forum panel.

SarahSandberg, COO at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, summed it up for theindustry executives. "You're at the table or you're on the menu," shesaid. "Choose to be part of the solution. It's tough work, but it's ourresponsibility to do it."