Follow me on Twitter: @JohnHQuigley

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

UCS asks: how far can natgas take us?

The simple answer is - not far enough.  

This excellent post by Union of Concerned Scientistsdirector of energy research Steve Clemmer is a must-read.  It describes the potential of natural gas to combat global climate disruption - and its limits.

The post's bottom line is familiar to regular readers of this blog: natgas is an effective, but limited, near-term tool in the fight to save ourselves from the calamity of history's largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment - the carbonization of our atmosphere.  We must use it for all it's worth. That requires better information and stronger regulation of natgas production and transmission - now.  We must use natgas to facilitate an aggressive transition to renewable energy, and transform it into a near-zero carbon source of energy with CCS.  We must urgently enact and implement energy policies that ensure the timely expansion of  energy efficiency and renewable energy.   The U.S. must enact limits on carbon pollution that reduce emissions at least 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.  And a price must be put on carbon.

Natural gas can serve as a bridge.  A hedge.  A near-term tool.  But it is not the answer - just as no single energy source or policy is the answer - to the complex problem of ensuring a habitable globe in the face of climate disruption. UCS' prescriptions are not surprising. They are not new. And they are achievable with the right leadership and national will. The only question is - will those prescriptions be heeded in time?


  1. Bravo, John. But we'd better step it up.

    Natural gas is valid as a bridge or transition fuel, when its life cycle emissions - particularly fugitive emissions in extraction and transportation - become adequately addressed. Technology exists to control up to 90% of these emissions.

    Why isn't PaDEP and/or USEPA making the gas industry do it? I know the O&G lobby contributes tremendous amounts to the political campaigns of our leaders. If that is the reason, we need to break that unsustainable chain of co-dependence.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Steve. EPA's new regs on methane emissions from natgas production are scheduled to take effect in 2015 - in part to allow the needed equipment to be manufactured by suppliers and purchased by the industry. That said, better data is needed on the true level of emissions across the entire value chain, and with that will likely come the need for broader and more stringent standards. It is urgently important work.