For the second time in a matter of weeks, President Obama Tuesday acknowledged that natural gas will play a critical role in the nation's energy portfolio going forward.

"We have a lot of natural gas here in this county," he said at a town hall meeting in Annandale, VA. He acknowledged the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the nation's prolific shale natural gas supply, although he did not mention the practice by name. In late March Obama championed natural gas as a new source of energy (seeShale Daily, March 31).

"The problem is...extracting it [shale gas] from the ground. The technologies aren't as developed as we'd like and so there are some concerns that it might create pollution in our groundwater, for example. So we've got to make sure that if we're going to do it [fracking], we do it in a way that doesn't poison people," Obama said.

A report released by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week found that more than 2,500 products containing 750 compounds were used over a five-year period between 2005 and 2009 (see Shale Daily, April 19). More than 650 of the products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants, according to the minority staff report.

"There's not going to be any single silver bullet" to lessen the country's dependence on crude oil, Obama said. "What we've got to do is develop all these energy alternatives," including natural gas, biofuels, clean coal technology and solar and wind power. In addition, he said he supports hybrid and electric cars and increased efficiency standards.

"All of them [energy alternatives], though, are going to require some investment in new ways of thinking, new basic science [and] new resarch. And typically no single company is going to be making those investments because it's not profitable for them to do it," the president said.

"The federal government historically has stepped in and said, 'You know what we'll make this investment in basic research and then we'll let somebody else commercialize it and make money on it.' That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we invented the GPS [global positioning system]...That's how we invented the bar code," Obama noted.