We’ve all seen the satellite pictures of the Bakken oil fields lit up nearly as bright as urban centers like Minneapolis and Chicago. Most of those lights are the result of natural gas flaring. All the oil drilling taps into natural gas deposits. The gas must be vented off to get at the oil, but since the Bakken oil boom has grown so quickly the infrastructure to capture the natural gas and bring it to market isn’t in place.
So instead the gas is burned off, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone from environmentalists to the oil/gas companies themselves. The greenies don’t like the emissions, and the oil/gas industry doesn’t like wasting a valuable commodity.
To address this, state Senator Tim Mathern introduced SB2315 which would have banned gas flaring after one year on any well in the state. The bill was voted down on a 13 – 34 vote:
Again, we’d all like to see the practice of flaring curtailed, but the simple truth is that if the industry could do it they would be doing it. They can’t right now, because the infrastructure isn’t in place, meaning that the result of Mathern’s bill wouldn’t have been the reduction of flaring so much as the reduction in oil production.
If the oil companies can’t get rid of the gas, through flaring or capture, they can’t produce oil. It’s as simple as that (and I think many of the far-left environmental groups who were backing this bill saw that as a feature of the legislation, not a bug).
The state would be better off looking at ways to get the infrastructure in place for natural gas capture more quickly, rather than punishing the industry for not doing something that’s impossible for them to do anyway.