Letter: We must frack or freeze

To the Editors:

In his lengthy article (“Natural gas is clean on one end, dirty on the other”) in the Feb. 20 edition of The Wilton Bulletin reporter Christopher Burns neglects to mention one thing. Without abundant natural gas millions of Americans would have literally frozen to death during this very cold winter.

Data provided by the Energy Information Agency (EIA), part of the Department of Energy, shows that 75% of U.S. homes and stores are heated by natural gas furnaces. Add in homes heated by electricity generated from natural gas and this number rises to nearly 85%.

In my MBA-level course titled “The Global Economics of Energy” I begin by showing my students the sources and uses of energy consumption in the United States. EIA data shows that 85% of U.S. energy is currently supplied by fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas and coal). Adding in nuclear and hydro power gets that number close to 95%. Biomass (wood and garbage) provide about 4% and wind and solar, despite their rapid growth in recent years, still provide only 1% of total U.S. energy.

The U.S. energy infrastructure is huge. Over a trillion dollars have been invested in it over the years, and due to its massive size this infrastructure and the mix of fuels used in the U.S. will change very slowly over the coming years. Most energy experts forecast that fossil fuels will still provide the vast majority of U.S. energy by mid-century.

In the meantime, the U.S. is in a very good competitive position versus the rest of the world due to the abundant, relatively inexpensive natural gas that is currently being produced by hydraulic fracturing methods. Environmentalists are correct to point out incidences where public safety could be improved. Fortunately accidents and safety issues are infrequent, and all Americans will benefit from the availability of abundant, inexpensive energy available to use for heating, manufacturing and electricity generation for the foreseeable future.

Christopher Smith

Adjunct Professor

UConn Stamford MBA Program

Tory Place, Feb. 21