Energy | Ecotrope

NW Natural CEO Proposes Certified Eco-Friendly Gas

Ecotrope | Nov. 9, 2012 8:44 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:28 p.m.

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U.S. EPA

NW Natural CEO Gregg Kantor proposed a certification system for environmentally responsible natural gas production at the Clean & Affordable Energy Conference in Portland today. Would that be possible?

There’s been quite an uproar from environmentalists about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, the now widespread method of injecting chemicals and sand underground to extract natural gas from shale rock. Fracking technology has fueled a giant increase in the estimates of how much natural gas the United States has in reserve, and it’s already produced a glut of gas that has driven prices down.

It has also contaminated groundwater in some parts of the country and raised concerns about methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaking out of the wells and offsetting the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that could be gained from replacing coal-fired power with natural gas.

But Kantor said the environmental impacts of fracking can be minimized, and he has a way to incentivise responsible gas production: It’s a certification system that would create a market for gas produced according to certain environmental standards.

“We know it can be done right,” Kantor said. “The problem is the producers don’t understand what the market wants. Our customers want gas produced in the most environmentally responsible way possible. … You can ratchet the standards up until eventually you get to the gold standard. Then we can say our producers are producing gas in the most environmentally sound way.”

Kantor acknowledged that even if his company wanted to buy the most eco-friendly gas, it probably wouldn’t be possible to literally buy it molecule for molecule.

“But you can still make the impact on the industry even though you might not be getting exactly those therms that come from that gold standard,” he said.

Kantor and Ralph Cavanagh at National Resources Defense Council are apparently teaming up to develop this eco-friendly gas certification. They asked the audience at the conference for reactions to the idea, and they got a lot of positive reviews. What’s your reaction?

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