Energy and the Environment

Is there such a thing as clean energy?

All significant energy sources pose a threat to the environment. Today the vast majority of homes are heated with either natural gas, heating oil or electricity. So which is the cleaner choice?

Natural gas is known as the “clean energy,” but what does that really mean?

While it’s true that there is little particulate matter released into the environment when the gas is burned, there is a good deal to be concerned about how it is drilled.

Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking” is the process by which natural gas is removed from the earth by the use of pressurized, chemically treated water to brake apart the rock that contains natural gas under the earth’s surface.

Environmental concerns include the potential contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, and the health risks associated with these concerns, such as cancer. There are many documented cases of suspected contamination of groundwater, and in December of 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft report indicating that the groundwater in a Wyoming aquifer contained gasoline, diesel fuel, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), naphthalenes, isopropanol, and synthetic chemicals.1

A recent Cornell University study confirmed that significant amounts of methane are escaping into the atmosphere during natural gas fracking. Natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide (CO2). The study estimates that as much as 8 percent of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well. 2


  1. http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/wy/pavillion/
  2. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/April11/GasDrillingDirtier.php
drilling rig
Underground Aquifer
Fracking Zone

What is the impact of methane gas?

As recently reported in the Newark Star Ledger:

Scientists have known for years that methane, emitted by cows and landfills alike, is a potent ingredient in global warming unless the gas is collected and used for fuel. Yet methane hasn’t gotten anywhere near the same attention as carbon dioxide from governments and businesses aiming to stop climate change without hindering economies. That is changing now as methane makes headlines because of new numbers showing more leakage than previously thought from natural gas wells and pipelines.” (read more)

What about heating oil? Is it clean?

Unlike some industries, the residential heating oil industry has actually been pressing state and federal governments to increase environmental standards associated with heating oil.

Over the past 30 years, technology has reduced home heating oil’s carbon footprint by 40%. And new technology is making oil heat even cleaner. New oil burners emit near-zero levels of pollution. Heating with oil today means no odors, no soot, and no residue in the home.

And the Future Is Brighter and Greener

  • In the near future, heating oil will be reformulated to bring down sulfur levels dramatically. This will ultimately enable U.S. companies to sell super-efficient heating systems (exceeding 95% AFUE), currently available only outside the U.S., with dramatic savings for homeowners.

  • Biofuel (also known as BioHeat®) adds a renewable component to heating oil. Made from domestically grown organic materials, such as soybeans, biofuel reduces our carbon footprint, reduces foreign oil imports and is becoming more readily available throughout New Jersey and across the country.

No matter what energy you use to heat your home—heating oil, propane, natural gas, electricity or wood—that energy comes from the earth. And for all fuels, exploration, drilling and burning can have negative consequences.

As a nation of energy consumers, our No. 1 priority should simply be to use less! If all oil-heated homes in the U.S. used modern efficient equipment, we could save 5 billion gallons of oil each year!* (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)