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article imageOp-Ed: Natural gas is part of the climate problem, not the solution

By Karen Graham     Jan 29, 2018 in Environment
The last 10 years have seen coal being replaced by cheaper and cleaner energy sources, like renewables and natural gas. And while coal use has dropped 44 percent, LNG use has risen by 45 percent.
The world has been led to believe that natural gas is cleaner and less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels like coal and oil, and to some extent, LNG is slightly less harmful, by about 14 percent. So we are led to believe that as a climate solution, LNG is a "bridge" from the dirtiest of fossil fuels to low-cost and clean renewables.
Carbon Brief did a detailed study on the changes in the electrical production in the U.S. from 1960 to 2017. US coal power production dropped by 44 percent (866 terawatt-hours [TWh]). Natural gas use rose 45 percent or 400 TWh, and renewables were up 26 percent or 200 TWh. Added to this was increased overall efficiency, with the U.S. using 9.0 percent less electricity than it did 10 years ago.
To put all the figures in context, of the 866 TWh of lost coal power production, 46 percent was picked up by natural gas, 43 percent by increased efficiency and 26 percent by renewables.
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Carbon Brief
What about LNG as a "bridge?"
Without a doubt, the world pulling away from coal-fired power plants is a positive step in our battle against global warming, but replacing a dirty fossil fuel with one that is only a little bit cleaner is destroying any gains we have made. A new NASA study published on January 2, 2018, clearly shows that LNG as a climate solution is nothing more than a myth.
NASA scientists found that most of the rise in methane emissions over the past decade came from the fossil-fuel industry, and the rise is “substantially larger” than previously thought. Natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and methane emissions are responsible for about 25 percent of human-caused global warming being experienced today.
Research shows that by 2000, methane emissions had leveled off. But since that time, the levels of methane in the atmosphere have been rising by 25 teragrams (27.5 million U.S. tons) a year, which NASA helpfully explains is the weight of some 5 million elephants.
Eagle Ford Shale methane gas flares visible from space (green and infrared wavelengths)  in the arc ...
Eagle Ford Shale methane gas flares visible from space (green and infrared wavelengths), in the arc between "1" and "2", amid cities in south Texas in 2012, acquired by NASA's acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite.
NASA
Basically, what NASA researchers concluded is nothing less than a "bombshell." The huge rise in fossil fuel methane emissions “found here is substantially larger than in previous literature.” The study suggests methane leakage rates are high, and that means fracking is truly part of the climate problem, and natural gas does not appear to be the ‘bridge’ to achieving the goal of steadily cutting our greenhouse gas emissions.
And NASA's research goes hand-in-hand with research conducted in 2014 that suggests that without strong limits on GHG emissions or policies that explicitly encourage renewable electricity, abundant natural gas may actually slow the process of decarbonization, primarily by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies.
Renewables and batteries becoming cheaper
The biggest criticism over renewables, particularly wind and solar sources, is their "unreliability." By that, we mean they are variable, just like the weather, say critics. Wind and solar are not "dispatchable," either and critics also say the low prices being touted by the renewables industry are misleading because they can't be backed up with "firm capacity."
Wind Catcher Energy Connection is a $4.5 billion infrastructure investment that will bring Oklahoma ...
Wind Catcher Energy Connection is a $4.5 billion infrastructure investment that will bring Oklahoma wind power to more than 1.1 million energy customers in the South Central U.S.
Wind Catcher Energy Connection
This is where storage solutions have jumped in and made a huge difference in the renewable energy sector. And it is also why wind or solar power is now looked at, price-wise, in terms of solar or wind+batteries. And depending on what country and what region you're looking into, the prices can vary greatly.
California has been a national leader in clean energy, and while natural gas supplies more than a third of the state's electrical power, renewables supply over 26 percent, with hydro supplying 10 percent. And as California moves to replace natural gas as a source of energy, the state is adding more storage batteries to the grid.
Tesla, AES Energy Storage, and Greensmith Energy Partners have all installed large battery storage facilities in California within the past year. It is estimated that in four years, storage batteries will be cheaper than natural gas "peakers," and cost a lot less in the coming 10 years.
The thing is, with competitive procurement of energy (still a minority of energy markets in the world) and good renewable resources, renewables are crushing fossil fuels, even natural gas. In other words, where several companies are battling for market shares, the price becomes more affordable.
The sonnenBatterie eco is an energy storage solution for your home that uses intelligent software to...
The sonnenBatterie eco is an energy storage solution for your home that uses intelligent software to manage energy throughout the day - saving you money, providing backup power and enabling you to use your solar power at night.
Sonnen
We need to cross the natural gas bridge
As The Guardian points out, natural gas power plants are being built today, and they have a good 20-year or so lifetime ahead of them, and any decisions made today will have to last for a long time to come. That is why there are moves already in place to scrap any new natural gas utility plants in Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Probably the biggest issue holding back the price of renewables is our lack of a national price on carbon pollution, something that other countries already have in place. But as long as we have an administration in power that does not believe in climate science, and rejects clean energy policies, we will need to work even harder to make the transition away from natural gas.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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