art energy waste
R.J. MATSON, Cagle Cartoons

By Freeda Cathcart

Cathcart is a former candidate for the House of Delegates.

Natural gas production accelerates the rate of climate change while contaminating a clean water supply already in decline. A comprehensive analysis predicts Virginia is on the precipice of another boom and bust industry.

Raymond Keating’s commentary “Natural gas is an energy revolution” (Nov. 25) failed to include the actual cost of extreme weather and natural gas extraction.

In 2012, the U.S. accounted for 90 percent of the world’s insured losses. 2012’s largest disasters were Hurricane Sandy (cost $65 billion) and the yearlong Midwest/Plains drought ($35 billion). Only one-third of Sandy’s damage was covered by the insurance industry. The losses the insurance industry didn’t cover burdened the government and property owners.

Ceres, a nonprofit advocate for sustainability leadership, established a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups in 1989 to create a healthy global economy by adopting sustainable business practices.

In 2012, Ceres released a report, “Stormy Future for U.S. Property/Casualty Insurers: The Growing Costs and Risks of Extreme Weather Events,” sounding the alarm about the potential economic crisis due to climate change.

The Ceres report urgently warns businesses and governments to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It recommends taking action by investing in storm-resistant buildings, clean and renewable energy, improved transportation options, land-use planning, new building codes for energy efficiency and risk assessments.

It encourages the insurance industry to motivate society to reduce risks by helping governments and the private sector to further understand and develop solutions to better predict and prevent losses from extreme weather events. The insurance industry is turning its focus on drastically reducing greenhouse gases to reduce future extreme weather.

The heyday of the fossil fuel industry (including natural gas) will soon be over. There are proven connections between the fossil fuel industries’ releasing greenhouse gases and climate change resulting in extreme weather. Extreme weather creates catastrophes like hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos, floods, droughts, fires and record-breaking snowfalls.

Our national, state and local governments must take immediate action to reduce carbon and methane emissions. The price of fossil fuels needs to reflect the true cost of extracting them and using them.

Extreme weather increases the risk to the insurance market, and those costs are passed along to governments, businesses and consumers.

While people have been worried about the higher cost of utilities as the Environmental Protections Agency implements Clean Power Plan regulations, they’ve been ignoring their insurance policies. Insurance rates have increased across the board by as much as 5 percent to 12 percent in wind-exposed areas. Many insurers are increasing deductibles and refusing to cover damage caused by wind and other extreme weather events.

A recent New York Times article about the booming natural gas wells in North Dakota reveals the front end of the natural gas boom has been disastrous. The atmosphere in North Dakota resembles the Wild West with a lack of enforced regulations, negligence and corruption.

Every barrel of oil produces 1.4 barrels of toxic brine. Since brine can’t be sold, the industry is careless with it, creating more brine spills than oil. The number of spills has increased 650 percent since 2004, while the number of wells has increased only 200 percent. Spill containment has declined to 45 percent, down from 62 percent in the previous three years.

Cheap gas is produced by sacrificing our nation’s water and land. It costs money to maintain and monitor equipment, train workers and have backup equipment on site to contain spills.

State supreme courts are upholding bans on fracking, the cheap way of extracting gas that contaminates our precious water supply. When the cost of extracting gas goes up, so will the price — causing the demand for gas to drop.

The real revolution will happen when people realize the benefits of true energy efficiency. Passive house construction and renovations can decrease the amount of energy to heat and cool homes and businesses by 80-85 percent. Incentives to encourage passive house renovations will create local jobs while freeing people from paying high energy costs.

Investing in regional renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar and geothermal will increase local employment. The U.S. is expecting a $5 billion return on the renewable energy loan program, an excellent return that will offset the $1.6 billion Production Tax Credit.

The truth may not always be convenient, but it is always powerful. The free market based on actual cost will crush the demand for gas. All the proposed pipelines will be nothing but empty pipe dreams.