For environmentalists, the new boom in natural gas presents a bit of a catch 22: it’s better than coal because it produces less carbon, but the extraction method – aka “fracking” – can release damaging methane into the environment, meaning that though its use is potentially better than coal, getting it out is probably worse.

While environmentalists continue to debate whether or not we like natural gas, the homegrown fossil fuel is giving the energy industry another reason to celebrate it: the natural gas market is essentially hurricane-proof.

Though Hurricane Isaac shut down much of the Gulf of Mexico’s energy production, natural gas prices didn’t go through the roof. In fact, the markets for natural gas barely even took notice of Isaac and the 28% cut it made to natural gas production there. Compare that to the markets’ reaction to Hurricane Katrina – prices jumped from $2.25 per thousand cubic feet to $12 – and it becomes hard not to wonder what the heck is going on.

The answer is good and bad. What has happened is that we have become less dependent on natural gas from the Gulf, but that is only because our country does so much natural gas production stateside. Natural gas from the Gulf represents only 7% of the market, compared with 20% when Katrina hit in 2005. So the industry learned a lesson not to rely too much on a volatile geographical area. But, sadly, it does not seem to have learned that that volatility is, at least in part, self-imposed through their own disregard for the planet.

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