New England should be benefiting a lot more from the U.S. shale boom than it currently is. The Marcellus shale is one of the most productive formations in the country, and fracking has unleashed massive new quantities of natural gas from the basin, situated in Pennsylvania and southern New York. Despite its proximity to this new gusher of gas, New England electricity is expensive, in large part the result of a dearth of necessary pipeline infrastructure.One company especially keen on constructing a new pipeline spur through Massachusetts and New Hampshire just scrapped the $3 billion project this week, bowing to stiff Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) and environmental opposition. The Boston Globe reports:
The energy giant Kinder Morgan Inc. has pulled the plug on its controversial natural gas pipeline proposed through parts of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, after failing to sign up enough utility customers and facing stiff consumer and political opposition. […][The pipeline], driven by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration and top officials in other states, is aimed at curbing New England’s relatively high electricity rates by bringing in cheaper natural gas to fuel power plants. Their theory: The cost of pipeline construction would be more than offset by savings in electric rates because more cheap gas could flow from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Roughly half of New England’s electricity comes from natural gas power plants.“This was our big chance to pay lower energy costs, like everybody else,” said Anthony Buxton, general counsel for the Coalition to Lower Energy Costs, a group of industrial and commercial electricity consumers. “That opportunity is gone…”
NIMBYism is a perennial problem for any sort of infrastructure planning, but often it can be overcome by offering affected landowners financial compensation. The green opposition, however, can’t be reasoned with. Never mind that the natural gas being piped in directly competes with coal, and does so while emitting half the greenhouse gases and far fewer of the localized pollutants. Never mind that the natural gas not finding its way to New England will be consumed elsewhere—either in a different region of the United States, or thanks to our fledging LNG export industry, abroad. These facts don’t matter to the environmentalists that helped sink this pipeline. The only fact that does matter to those greens is that this pipeline would be transporting a fossil fuel. The horror!And so New England’s pipeline bottleneck will persist, consigning the region to shakier energy security and higher power bills while depriving it of the greenest available fossil fuel. Greens are already claiming victory over the energy company that dared to propose this important infrastructure project, but it looks like New England is the real loser in all of this.