Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions reaches a number of conclusions and recommendations that should be familiar to readers of this blog:
Substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels cannot be the sole basis for long-term U.S. efforts to address climate change because natural gas is a fossil fuel and its combustion emits greenhouse gases. To avoid dangerous climate change, greater reductions will be necessary than natural gas alone can provide. Ensuring that low-carbon investment dramatically expands must be a priority. Zero-emission sources of energy, such as wind, nuclear and solar, are critical, as are the use of carbon capture-and-storage technologies at fossil fuel plants and continued improvements in energy efficiency.
Along with substituting natural gas for other fossil fuels, direct releases of methane into the atmosphere must be minimized. It is important to better understand and more accurately measure the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production and use in order to achieve emissions reductions along the entire natural gas value chain.
The report makes a number of sector-specific conclusions and recommendations:
- Natural gas and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar can be complementary components of the power sector. Natural gas plants can quickly scale up or down their electricity production and so can act as an effective hedge against the intermittency of renewables. The fixed fuel price (zero) of renewables can act a hedge against potential natural gas price volatility.
- It's important to encourage the efficient direct use of natural gas in buildings, where natural gas applications have a lower greenhouse gas emission footprint compared with other energy sources.
- The efficient use of natural gas in the manufacturing sector needs to be continually encouraged, and policy – especially at the state-level - is needed to overcome existing barriers to deployment of combined heat and power systems.
- Natural gas-related technologies, such as microgrids, microturbines, and fuel cells, have the potential to increase the amount of distributed generation used in buildings and manufacturing. These technologies can be used in configurations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions when compared with the centralized power system.
- The greatest opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using natural gas in the transportation sector is through fuel substitution in fleets and heavy-duty vehicles.
- Transmission and distribution pipelines must be expanded to ensure adequate supply for new regions and to serve more thermal loads in manufacturing, homes, and businesses.
As the report clearly demonstrates, natural gas can be an effective tool in the fight against climate disruption, but it is no substitute for - and must be used effectively in - a comprehensive and smart energy policy.