By Douglas C. Sandridge, EnergyPolicyUs.com
January 30, 2015
Natural gas is widely accepted as a safe and reliable form of energy which can be used directly (for heating homes, water heaters, dryers, stoves, etc.) or used to generate electricity. Due to its domestic abundance, natural gas is also very affordable in the United States; however, it may not be widely understood by the general public how effective natural gas can be, when used as a tool to reduce CO2 and other airborne emissions. On average, when used as an alternative to coal, natural gas serves to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately forty to fifty percent and reduces other harmful emissions 80-100 percent (i.e. NOX, SO2, particulates & mercury). Equally important, using natural gas as a back-up source for generating electricity is crucial for the effective use of renewables such as wind and solar.
Notwithstanding the seemingly favorable attributes of natural gas, there are still a plethora of critics who seek to immediately and completely eliminate the use of all fossil fuels, including natural gas. Although these fossil fuel detractors may be well intended, it seems that they may not fully grasp (i) the different environmental impacts of various types of fossil fuels; and (ii) the importance of natural gas as a bridge fuel to the future. There are promising emerging technologies which could eventually revolutionize the manner in which we use energy and the environmental impacts resulting from energy use. Nevertheless, there is currently no coherent plan or plausible pathway which would allow the United States (or the World) to totally eliminate the use of fossil fuels anytime soon. The inevitable transition away from fossil fuels has already begun; nevertheless, it will likely take decades before the transition is complete. In the meantime, does it make sense to “throw out the natural gas baby with the fossil fuel bath water?”
It is important to understand and appreciate the unique and critical role that natural gas will continue to play in facilitating a transition towards greater use of renewable energy. EnergyPolicyUs is presenting a five week series of appurtenant articles examining (i) why fossil fuels will not disappear in the foreseeable future; (ii) the importance of reliability in the supply of electricity; (iii) limitations of wind power; (iv) the “coal-cycling” dilemma; and (v) the critical role of natural gas in the expanded use of wind, solar and other renewables to generate electricity. Part I of the series Feeding the Energy Beast & the Delusory Demise of Fossil Fuels will appear February 11th on EnergyPolicyUs.org.