In a recent New York Times article, two new studies regarding natural gas have been released; one by Robert Howarth of Cornell University and another by David Hughes of the Post Carbon Institute. Both of these articles state that natural gas will be more harmful to the environment than coal or even oil.
The chief component of natural gas is methane, which is more efficient in trapping greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. This became a significant issue when studies found that methane is escaping into the atmosphere in far larger quantities, close to 8%, than originally thought due to leaks in loose pipe fittings.
Two weeks ago, President Obama indicated that natural gas will be a significant part of the energy production vision for this country’s future. It has been suggested that the natural gas production is to increase by fourfold by 2035.
I am torn by the information that I have just read. I have always been a natural gas proponent, but the new studies have me doubting what the right course of action is for this country. If we are to increase natural gas production fourfold, that is a tremendous amount of methane emitted into the air. Add that to the environmental impact the increased amount of gas wells we will have at the time, has me questioning this method. The natural gas industry won’t tighten up on their production with reducing the amount of gas that leaks out into the atmosphere or capture the methane due to economic reasons. In addition, there are already many natural gas drill sites and to quadruple them has me in a doubtful state.
I do think natural gas can be a bridge to the renewable future combined with energy efficiency. However, a lot more validation of these studies must be done to verify their outcomes in order to be properly implemented.
One of the first initiatives that the newly-elected Republican House Majority is working on is to dismantle what they deem as the “job-killing” Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations set forth by the current Executive branch (E.P.A. Faces First Volley From the House). Fred Upton, the new Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee is looking to slash the EPA budget, causing them to be incapable of enforcing some of the emission standards on greenhouse gases (GHG). His reason? He believes that jobs are being exported to other countries. According to the article, “[Mr. Upton] will use every resource available to protect American workers and our economy by rolling back the job-killing GHG regulations.” Once again, our elected government officials would rather sacrifice the well-being of our society, and future societies, in the name of the almighty dollar. But, the question becomes, “Are we looking at the big picture?”
It is true that the cost to generate a coal-fired plant may not be cost effective if in fact, current and more stringent GHG restrictions are passed. And, it is true that increasing restrictions on GHG emissions will cause coal plants to start to upgrade some of their emission controls causing extra costs, which (at some point) could wipe out coal-producing generator plants completely. However, to get to that point, we would need to have an infrastructure in place that could support new types of energy production and a smart energy grid to handle these new green power technologies. I can also say that the jobs that will be created to support all these measures will come from the USA – they just may not be found in Mr. Upton’s district.
I will admit that the current presidential administration has affected me personally in the areas of increased taxes and health insurance, which I am not happy about. What would make me even more unhappy would be to see the good things that this administration has done (such as making tighter restrictions on what we put in the air) being attacked for no good reason. It just doesn’t make any sense.
The jobs will not go overseas. What will happen is that the types of jobs will shift to more innovative technologies in this country, such as electric cars and solar panels. Jobs will also be created when coal plants choose to retrofit their facilities to provide reduced GHG, which will create tax revenue. It will be years before the effects of the EPA will affect the coal miners jobs. By that time, our economy will have recovered and jobs can be made available domestically, as well as abroad.
Let’s put our efforts on being a smarter country and being more energy efficient. Our focus should be on moving forward instead of savings jobs, just for the sake of saving jobs.
I recently flew cross-country and sat in a window seat which I typically do not like to do. However, on that day the visibility was tremendous and the pilot indicated that it was clear for hundreds of miles. As we crossed the Rockies, I was treated to views of snow-covered mountains and the pristine parks that surrounded them. As we made our way past Chicago, grief struck me as a result of what I saw. One-half-dozen power plants became visible, all undoubtedly filled with coal as a toxic blue haze discharged from each of them. The thought of the amount of pollutants being released into our atmosphere is disturbing. Even more disturbing is the fact that we are still talking about clean air as a pipe dream and that the “theories” of global warming and acid rain are the creation of environmentalists delusions.
Ironically, on that same flight, I read two stories in the paper. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring a New Mexico coal-fired power plant, with one of the nation’s worst emissions records, to upgrade their emissions controls (Coal Plant Would Get New Controls). A local politician was up in arms over the fact that the utility company had to spend $717 million to make this upgrade. He indicated it would cost close to 1,000 jobs and that the government should not make the plant perform the upgrade. Meanwhile, he ignores the fact that this upgrade would add jobs as the technology and installation would be performed by American citizens. Jobs don’t disappear – they just shift from one politician’s region to another.
In the same newspaper, Governor Christie of New Jersey threatened to pull the State of New Jersey’s portion of funding for the new rail tunnel to New York City for reasons that are, in my opinion, politically fueled and nothing more (Christie Halts Train Tunnel Citing its Cost). The tunnel is said to reduce the congestion of commuters into Manhattan and remove thousands of cars off the road that would have normally driven. Gov. Christie asserts that “the state just cannot afford its share of the project’s rising cost”. However, halting the tunnel project would also cost the region an estimated 6,000 construction jobs.
I think these two politicians need to talk. One wants to hold onto jobs for the sake of sacrificing our air, while the other wants to eliminate jobs due to political constraints. Both are willing to sacrifice our environment for political gain. I don’t understand the mentality that some people are willing to put other issues ahead of protecting our environment. I am not naïve; I understand that the economy is not robust. We all need to survive this recession and move on. But, why should we sacrifice the environment in the process?