Savor cheap natural gas while it lasts

Work continues Tuesday on the Harry Allen power plant north  of Las Vegas. (Photo by John Gurzinski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

While NV Energy customers can look forward to a tiny tick down in power rates because the company has been generating electricity with abundant and clean-burning natural gas, don’t expect a good thing to go unchallenged.

Gas is cheaper because companies have found a practical way to get at previously out-of-reach pockets of gas by fracking — pumping water under pressure into wells, which causes rock formations to fracture and release natural gas.

Higher supply means lower prices.

But it may not last. Today The New York Times has a front page story about how the waste water from fracking is exempt from hazardous waste regulations but is full of salt and some radioactive material. The story mentions that new regs might require the waste water be shipped to Idaho or Washington, the only states with landfills permitted for such waste. That would be expensive and make the gas more expensive to produce.

If that weren’t bad enough, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission has halted the drilling of fracking wells in central Arkansas following a series of earthquakes some blame on the wells. The largest quake in 35 years struck Greenbrier a couple of days ago.

So, back to those renewable power projects, I guess.

Perhaps not if you expect to still have a job so you can pay your power bill. Today’s Investor’s Business Daily carries an editorial telling of a new study out of Scotland that estimates every “green” job created by wind turbines costs 3.7 jobs because of the subsidies taking capital out of the private economy.

Some always finds a worm in the apple.