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 am deeply concerned over the battle in California involving carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. According to an article in the NY Times (California Braces for Showdown on Emissions), Californians will go to the polls on November 2 to vote on whether or not to suspend A.B. 32, the law which mandates cutting carbon and other greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This ballot initiative (Proposition 23) would suspend tight emissions standards from going into effect.
Proponents of Proposition 23 believe that the government should not be spending money on carbon reduction; that our focus should be on putting Americans back to work. They believe that the bill would cost the state jobs and raise energy prices.
Last time I checked, oil company profits just set record highs. If Proposition 23 is passed, I am not sure how this measure would create jobs. If the battle is over jobs, I would think retrofitting their plants to reduce their emissions and energy consumption would create more jobs than would be lost. I also find it hard to believe that if a person had to pay an additional $2 a week on gasoline, he would be forced into bankruptcy.
The bigger issue for me is the fundamental reason why they are trying to defeat A.B. 32 in the first place. Is cleaner air and reduction of global warming not important enough? Or, will the people that are making money hand over fist in this industry by having their pockets lined by special interest groups triumph again? If they took the money they are pouring into defeating A.B. 32 and put it towards reducing emissions, oil companies would spend a lot less, and more savings would be passed on to the customer.