Petroleum Executive Promotes Natural Gas

Petroleum industry executive Jim T. Hackett, speaking at a presentation hosted by the Harvard University Center for the Environment Wednesday, argued that natural gas is more efficient and cost-effective than commonly perceived.

Hackett, the chairman and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, spoke in the last installment of “The Future of Energy” lecture series.

Hackett’s presentation focused on what he described as the vital role of natural gas in the United States energy economy. Throughout the presentation, Hackett, who graduated from Harvard Business School in 1979, frequently referenced a study conducted by the National Petroleum Council, an advisory group that represents the oil industry to the Secretary of Energy, that concluded that natural gas is more cost-effective and results in less pollution than coal.

Hackett said Americans ought to look at fuel and its impact from a broader perspective.

“Every energy technology has consequences to the environment, not just greenhouse gases,” he said, citing water pollution and land contamination.

Hacket said that compared to coal the environmental impact of natural gas is relatively small.

Harvard Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry Jim G. Anderson attended Wednesday’s talk and said that Hackett’s company stands to gain by presenting its product as a winner for the environment.

“You can see the playoff between natural gas and coal. If natural gas can make an argument based on efficiency and environmental impact, it opens up a huge potential lobbying effort against the coal industry,” Anderson said.

He added that expanding the use of natural gas may have a negative impact on the development of alternative energy sources.

“Because natural gas is so cheap, it prevents the development of wind, solar, and thermal,” he said.

Anderson said that the use of natural gas may have a smaller environmental impact than coal but added that the damage it does inflict is still problematic.

“It depends on how you view the climate structure ... The thing [Hackett] clearly avoided is [natural gas’] climate impact,” Anderson said.

In his remarks, Hackett noted that differing points of view exist in the research on natural gas.

“I have to be very careful to say this is not incontrovertible,” he said.

But Hackett also said the industry can be misrepresented as uncontrolled. “[Oil and gas] is one of the most regulated industries in the country. It isn’t always regulated well, but it is regulated. The press might tell you otherwise, but it is stunningly regulated,” he said.

Hackett’s firm—Anadarko—owned a 25 percent stake in the Macondo well that was the source of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. In October, Anadarko agreed to pay British Petroleum $4 billion to settle claims relating to compensating those who were affected by the spill, which was the largest offshore spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

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