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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Study: only climate policies - not natgas - will save us

US carbon emissions have dropped, thanks in significant measure to natural gas.  But that decrease is illusory and likely temporary, because it has so far relied on the fickle free market

In the battle against global climate disruption, policy is everything.  

That's the finding of a new paper published in published in Environmental Resource Letters. 

The effect of natural gas supply on US renewable energy and CO2 emissions models the effect of natural gas supply on CO2 emissions and finds that abundant natural gas will not reduce GHG emissions and will compete with renewable energy:
more abundant natural gas decreases use of both coal and renewable energy technologies in the future. Without a climate policy, overall electricity use also increases as the gas supply increases...In our results, only climate policies bring about a significant reduction in future CO2 emissions within the US electricity sector. Our results suggest that without strong limits on GHG emissions or policies that explicitly encourage renewable electricity, more abundant natural gas may actually slow the process of decarbonization, primarily by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies.
I'm quoted about the study in this piece in Science magazine.  

Natural gas can be a climate stabilization tool if we much more strongly regulate its production, minimize methane emissions across the full lifecycle from production to use, and leverage its attributes to aggressively propel renewable energy deployment. We have not come close to doing any of that yet.  It's also clear that if natgas is to have a long-term role in our energy generation portfolio, it can only happen if CCS/CCUS is required.



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