Sprinkles from the Left

Commentators on the Left are mostly in favor of phasing out natural gas usage in America – or at least finding ways to make its generation carbon neutral – contending it contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and is not as eco-friendly as previously thought.

With science telling us that we need to zero out carbon emissions over the next 30 years, we cannot rely on a technology that locks in millions of tons of emissions over that period — or long after it. After siding with the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks, the oil and gas industry now says it wants to be part of the solution on climate change. But modest measures like preventing methane leakage are not enough; it’s time to transition off of fossil fuels…

Countries are already projected to produce more emissions from fossil fuels in 2030 than what would be required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the UN. We cannot keep investing in this polluting infrastructure and expecting a low-carbon future to emerge.

Amanda Levin, senior policy analyst in the Climate & Clean Energy Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council (published in the Houston Chronicle - $)

Yet as we move toward decarbonization, maintaining an affordable and reliable grid is becoming more exacting, due to increased frequency of extreme weather events and the rapid growth of intermittent and variable wind and solar power. Retaining sufficient natural gas generation to backstop wind and solar power will reduce costs and increase reliability compared to a grid that relies entirely on renewables, or often more expensive electricity storage. Given these realities, demands to ban shale gas development and fracking are not consistent with an economically balanced approach to decarbonizing the electric grid, as President Biden and other administration officials have repeatedly noted…

Washington should acknowledge and support the role gas plays in enabling rapid deployment of renewable energy, and work with the industry to deploy a range of clean technologies and practices. The gas and utility industries in turn must work with government and consumers to commit to consistent progress toward zero carbon emissions, achieved through the more rapid development of CCS technology, deep reductions of methane emissions throughout the natural gas lifecycle and other efforts.

Will Marshall is president of the Progressive Policy Institute. Paul Bledsoe is a strategic adviser at the PPI. (Published in the Hill)

Two decades ago, people thought that natural gas, though a fossil fuel, might help slow climate change because, when you burn it in a power station, it produces less carbon than burning coal does. Now we understand that natural gas—which is primarily made of methane—leaks unburned at every stage from fracking to combustion, whether in a power plant or on top of your stove, in sufficient quantities to make it an enormous climate danger…

But plugging leaks isn’t enough: we’ve got to stop producing natural gas as quickly as possible, and replace it with renewables that generate neither carbon nor methane. As I wrote last month, that’s now entirely possible; sun and wind power have become so cheap so fast that they’re more economical than gas, and batteries are coming down the same kind of cost curve, so nightfall is no longer the problem it once was.

Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

Sprinkles from the Right

Commentators on the Right are opposed to banning natural gas in new homes and buildings, contending the U.S. is not yet at a point where it can go without fossil fuels – of which natural gas is the cheapest and most eco-friendly.

Natural gas has the advantage for being one of the cheapest and cleanest fossil fuels, and the nation has an abundance of the resource. It now accounts for about one-third of America’s electricity generation, and the United States has become energy independent in part because of it. Between 2005 and 2016, U.S. carbon emissions fell 14 percent, and a significant portion of that improvement can be attributed to an increased reliance on natural gas.

As much as green activists yearn for a day when wind and solar can meet all of our energy needs, the nation is nowhere near that point.

Editorial Board, Las Vegas Journal-Review

Banning natural gas is a government action that forces consumers to find a substitute, namely electricity, that presumably is inferior to the product that is banned (or else such action would not be necessary). Energy consumers may find natural gas cheaper, in addition to providing more heating comfort and better cooking performance than electricity…

A ban represents a command-and-control policy at its worst. It is a blunt instrument, draconian and highly costly relative to the alternatives in terms of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Kenneth W. Costello is a regulatory economist/independent consultant who worked previously with the National Regulatory Research Institute, Illinois Commerce Commission and Argonne National Laboratory (published in ABQ Journal)

Our best solutions come when our governments and private sector work together to offer environmentally sound solutions to meeting our energy needs. The evidence of that path’s success grows by the day. At a time of record domestic oil and gas production, the U.S. leads the world in environmental standards and emissions reductions on an absolute basis. That’s largely due to the increased use of natural gas, advances in technology and ongoing progress in renewable energy…

Eliminating natural gas from our energy mix eliminates immediate and tangible emissions reductions. These all-or-nothing bans sabotage sound policies that place affordability, reliability and environmental stewardship on an equal footing. Worse, they interfere with a long, successful American tradition of government, businesses and citizens working together to solve our biggest challenges.

Kaitlin Schmidtke, Gulf Coast executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance (published in Clarion Ledger)