The cold truth about energy, prosperity - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

The cold truth about energy, prosperity

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Greg Kozera Greg Kozera
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Greg Kozera is from Elkview. Korzera is a registered professional engineer with a master's degree in environmental engineering and more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry including hydraulic fracturing. Kozera is on the Board of Directors for the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and is the current president of the Virginia Oil & Gas Association. He can be contacted at gkozera@aol.com.

I was looking out my window from my warm, well-lit office one evening during the latest round of bitter cold. The ground was covered with snow. It was dark and the wind wasn't blowing. 

It got me to thinking about how glad I am to live in a state where we have fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. If I had been depending on wind and solar for energy, my house would be cold and dark. My wife and I would be depending on our wood-burning fireplace for survival. Thanks to energy from abundant natural gas and coal, I'm not aware of anyone in the state that froze to death this winter in their homes due to lack of energy.   

We know that Washington is waging a war on coal over concern for CO2 and global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency is studying hydraulic fracturing for the second time even though over 2 million wells have been hydraulically fractured since 1947 with no effects to ground water. Almost every well drilled on land for years in the United States has required hydraulic fracturing in order to produce natural gas or oil. Without hydraulic fracturing we have no domestic oil and gas industry. We also know that hydraulic fracturing has helped to lower CO2 emissions to 1992 levels thanks to increased domestic production of natural gas resulting in increased use of natural gas for electricity generation. 

We continue to hear about the promise of renewables. Renewables have a place in our energy mix, but the cold reality is that they cannot replace fuels like natural gas, oil and coal. This is based on simple engineering and logic. Wind and solar energy take large amounts of surface area to produce a small amount of electricity. They are not very efficient. They are expensive. We have no current way of storing this energy. When the sun doesn't shine, like nighttime, or when the wind isn't blowing, we have no energy. When these sources are used, the power company must have 100 percent backup for them. This costs ratepayers in their electric bills. Surprisingly, the backup for renewables usually comes from natural gas (from fracturing) because a natural gas generator can be put online quickly. 

Even Germany recognizes the shortcomings of renewables. They are in the process of building 27 coal-fired power plants. Much of the coal for these plants will come from the United States and some from West Virginia. Germany is shutting down its nuclear power plants and it knows that wind and solar cannot replace them. One hundred percent of Germany's natural gas supply comes from Gazprom, a Russian natural gas company. Russia has no public utility commission, so it can charge Europe whatever it pleases. Currently, natural gas prices in Europe are four times what they are in the United States. What this means is that it is cheaper for Germany to import coal than to buy natural gas from Russia for electricity.

What about ordinary people? Energy is a basic human need for heating, cooking, lighting, manufacturing, transportation and clean water. High energy prices hurt seniors and others on fixed incomes. It hurts the middle class. It costs American jobs. The only thing worse than high energy prices is high energy prices and not enough energy. Sadly, many people in Washington and some of the "environmental" groups haven't stopped to think about what their misguided policies do to real people. As cold as it has been, I struggle to believe in global warming. Someone who is cold, unemployed or can't afford food or medication due to high energy costs probably doesn't care about global warming. He is worried about survival. 

The Shale Revolution has changed everything. It has made America the energy gorilla of the planet. It has created good jobs in West Virginia in the natural gas and support industries. It has increased tax revenues. It has created clean, affordable, dependable domestic energy for West Virginians and Americans. It has kept energy costs low, especially for those that heat with natural gas or use it to run vehicles. If allowed to flourish, it will continue to help the middle class by providing jobs and seniors by keeping energy affordable. The Shale Revolution has lowered CO2 emissions in America, and if we export our natural gas, it can reduce CO2 emissions globally.

Isn't it time to accept the gift we have been given with abundant natural gas in West Virginia? We can decide how we can best use this gift. We are just beginning to use it for transportation. We can use our abundant, dependable and affordable energy to attract business. States like Virginia and North Carolina crave our abundant energy, especially natural gas. They are trying to find ways to develop their own energy because they understand how important it is to business. They know that businesses create jobs and pay taxes. But they don't have the Marcellus and our natural gas industry.

We will have our challenges. Things will not always go smoothly. There will be setbacks and incidents. Once we decide what we want our future to look like, we need to believe we can make it happen. When the challenges come, instead of doubting ourselves and pointing fingers, we can ask the question, "Together, how can we move forward?" We are smart and industrious. We can work together to use this shale revolution to help all West Virginians and really change our state for the better. Don't we want the best for our children and grandchildren?

Editor's Note: This letter to the editor was submitted in response to our ongoing series, "Map to Prosperity."