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.
I was enthused by the 2011 State of the Union Address where President Barack Obama challenged the United States to have 80% of America’s energy to come from clean energy sources by 2035. At first I thought to myself, “Finally we are doing something about clean energy and climate change.” However, what I did not hear is what we are going to do with the Clean Air Act right NOW. Climate change is currently happening and we are all experiencing it, especially those who live in the Northeast and have to put up with this year’s seemingly never-ending snow. From listening to the experts’ view on this recent weather pattern, the polar ice caps have melted more than normal this past summer and that has injected colder water into the oceans causing extreme weather patterns. There has been a trend of increased rain and snow storms, as they have become the norm over the past few years.
I think 80% is a great goal (knowing that much of the changing climate is attributed to what we put in the air). However, I am skeptical that we can meet this goal if we don’t have a clear plan of action. In addition, our energy needs are rising and the development of clean fuel technologies is lagging. One way to bridge this gap is for everyone to start being a little bit more energy efficient in our lives. We all need to take responsibility of how we are contributing to this problem. We should all examine how we, as individuals, are using energy in our homes and offices and try to conserve more. We can help bridge this gap. It will take effort on all of our parts to start becoming more energy efficient in our everyday lives. For example, I often see buildings using more electricity than is necessary due to inefficient chilled water production or poor lighting design that can easily be remedied. I am also a realist, as these types of reductions will not get us to the 80% but every little bit can help.
Watching some of the news shows such as those on the FOX network who hold the opinion that “Now is not the time to push for the Clean Air Act” just reaffirms my opinion: most people in this country are more concerned with dollars than with saving our planet. I get it – we are losing the race for global financial supremacy to China and India. Frankly, I’m not as concerned about global supremacy as much as I care about what we are doing to this planet. Does it really matter if the Gross National Product (GNP) of other countries is higher than ours? A majority of what they produce goes to the USA for consumption anyway. I understand the idea that if we don’t stay ahead, they will have a better standard of living than us. But, I am not so sure that this is as important as the air we breathe. What is of greater concern is making sure we can leave a planet behind that our kids and grandkids don’t have to clean up just because we were in a race with China over GNP. Enough of the ranting. I need to go shovel my driveway again.
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?