Hurricane Harvey Debunks Doomsday Natural Gas Claims

Hurricane Harvey may have left a path of death and devastation in Texas and Louisiana, but it did little to inhibit oil and natural gas export facilities and refineries along the Gulf Coast. Despite alarmism spread by anti-fossil fuel activists, American consumers barely noticed any price increases, either.

Oil and natural gas export facilities and refineries are clustered along the Gulf Coast near Houston. Anti-fossil fuel activists have long claimed that a major hurricane would create substantial devastation and disruption of these facilities. Such threats, the activists argue, justifies switching our national economy away from inexpensive oil and natural gas.

harvey-satThe mainstream media were quick to pursue this storyline in the wake of Harvey. CNBC, for example, published an article Friday titled, “Harvey exposes striking new energy risks in the age of shale.”  The article claimed, “the storm’s impacts on the energy sector are being felt far and wide—in ways not seen before.”

“The growing concentration of energy infrastructure – production, refineries, processing and petrochemical plants, storage terminals, ports and more— in the Gulf Coast creates a vulnerability for the U.S. and the world. … When the Gulf Coast’s energy system takes a hit, it is now felt everywhere. And in the next few years, several new natural gas export facilities will come online, meaning the next disaster could have a big impact on global gas markets as well.” the CNBC article continued.

While the article sensationalized asserted risks and vulnerabilities of export facilities and refineries along the Gulf Coast, it failed to present objective data to back up its claims. So I will do so.

As of Saturday, U.S. retail gasoline prices had risen 17 cents from the time Harvey began threatening the Texas Gulf Coast. That’s a mere 7 percent. A short-term gasoline price increase of 17 cents per gallon is inconvenient for American consumers, but it is hardly an economic Armageddon.

In the week before Harvey hit Texas, natural gas prices treaded water around $2.95 per million British thermal units. During the week after Harvey’s landfall, prices at the daily close peaked at $3.09. That’s a price spike of less than 5 percent, resulting from the worst hurricane to hit the United States in over a decade. Even at “spiked” prices, natural gas is substantially less expensive than wind and solar power.

CNBC and others in the mainstream media sensationalized oil and natural gas price spikes at home and abroad as a result of Harvey. It is rather odd that the mainstream media will sensationalize a short-term price increase of oil and natural gas from 5-to-7 percent, yet at the same time they will sweep under the rug the much more substantial price increase of switching from natural gas or nuclear power to wind or solar power.

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