Both legitimate and non-legitimate media members have tried to villainize natural gas liquids production in Pennsylvania because of its link to plastics production. This is a painfully narrow analysis of this energy resource and its production, end use and importance to the state. The false narrative was most recently spun by StateImpact Pennsylvania and the DragonPipe Diary, a Pennsylvania blog run by a Southeastern Pennsylvania resident.
For too long reporting in Pennsylvania has ignored the environmental pros of natural gas.
The Commonwealth has a long history in the energy industry for a variety of resources including coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Each resource has had its time, too. Pennsylvania experienced a long-term economic boom due to coal production; Three Mile Island came and went with a flash, yet the commonwealth still relies on nuclear energy; and advances in drilling technology have made Pennsylvania the second largest natural gas producing state in the nation.
The media would never let you know that being a leader in natural gas is a positive and despite their best attempts to paint the resource as ‘dirty’ and unfriendly towards the environment, quite the opposite is true.
As the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in their annual review, natural gas has had a strong role in reducing emissions. Below are a few natural gas highlights from the EIA and others:
- Natural gas CO2 emissions declined by 1.5% in 2017 (EIA)
- Commercial sector CO2 emissions declined by 2.1% in 2017 (EIA)
- Natural gas replacing coal-fired generation has led to the decline in emissions (EIA)
- Natural gas has 50% fewer emissions than coal generated energy (Department of Energy)
Natural gas is clearly essential to modern energy production and reduced emissions. At the heart of StateImpact Pennsylvania and DragonPipe Diary’s article is a failure to admit that plastic production, which largely relies on natural gas liquids such as ethane, is critical to nearly every modern convenience that affords the American lifestyle from sunrise to sunset, day in and day out.
Ethane produced in Western Pennsylvania, is sent to ‘cracker’ plants to breakdown the product into more usable molecules – often ethylene and polyethylene which are the basis of many consumer and commercial goods.
When you wake up in the morning and head to the kitchen you are interacting with ethylene vinyl in a number of goods including appliance grip handles, coffee machines, toasters, and wire insulators found on practically all plug-in electronics. Plastics made from natural gas liquids will follow you to the bathroom in cosmetics, shower heads, and much of the packaging used in self-care and cleaning products.
Obviously, natural gas and plastics production are ever present in automobiles and modes of public transit. Also, Tupperware and other food containers rely on polyethylene from natural gas to be produced so that you can enjoy your lunch. To wash said food containers, clothes and other items? Also rely on ethane for detergent and soap.
Lastly, the leisure portion of our lives would not be enjoyable without plastic production from natural gas. This goes for sporting goods, boat hulls, electrical connectors and more.
Without natural gas liquids and the near endless goods it affords Americans, our way of life would be drastically different. Media that suggest otherwise are dishonest about the benefits Pennsylvania’s natural resources offer.