At first, some environmentalists saw the natural gas boom as a way to promote a relatively carbon-light “bridge fuel” that would take us from dirty coal to clean renewables. Then concerns surfaced that natural gas extraction was contaminating water and soil. And natural gas, it turns out, has its own greenhouse gas issues. Is increasing domestic natural gas production a smart way to transition from coal to renewables? Richard Ward of the UN Foundation’s Energy program says, Yes – with the proper oversight. Jennifer Krill, executive director of Earthworks, disagrees.
by Richard Ward
Richard Ward is director of energy initiatives at the Aspen Science Center and senior energy advisor to the UN Foundation’s Energy Future Coalition. Ward was previously with Royal Dutch Shell, where he served on the Shell Group Sustainability Executive and prepared the sustainability strategy.
The scientific consensus is stark: Earth systems are dangerously close to tipping points which, once crossed, could ignite negative feedback loops and catastrophic climate change beyond human capacity to remedy. Because burning hydrocarbons is the cause, many environmentalists advocate a complete ban on carbon fuel sources in favor of renewables. This is compelling until we consider the numbers. The US uses about 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy a year and emits 6 billion tons of the world’s 30 billion tons of CO2. We use nearly 40 quads of oil for transportation and about 40 quads of energy for electric power. By contrast, our production from wind and solar is only 0.5 quads. To replace the 67 quads of oil, coal, and natural gas with wind and solar would take decades. In this time, the emissions from coal and oil would drive the planet over the brink.…more…
by Jennifer Krill
As program director at Rainforest Action Network, Jennifer Krill helped lead campaigns to protect old growth forests and break America’s oil addiction. She is currently the executive director of EARTHWORKS, an advocacy group that focuses on the negative impacts of mineral and energy extraction.
“Natural gas: the bridge to a clean energy future!” Nice sound bite. But the reality is that natural gas is nothing but a bridge to more natural gas – and with it more water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities.
The natural gas industry, joined in good faith by some environmentalists, touts natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” cleaner burning than coal and less destructive to extract, a way to transition to a renewable energy economy. But communities across America – from the Rocky Mountains to Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York – know this is a false choice. Just like coal, the drilling, processing, and transport of natural gas is dirty and dangerous. And new research calls into question natural gas’s advantage over coal in terms of global warming pollution when the full life cycle (from extraction to transport to use) is considered.…more…
What do you think? Is natural gas a bridge to the future or a dead end?
We are standing at a pivotal moment in history, one in which education and advocacy around the climate emergency, public health, racial injustice, and economic inequity is imperative. At Earth Island Journal, we have doubled down on our commitment to uplifting stories that often go unheard, to centering the voices of frontline communities, and to always speak truth to power. We are nonprofit publication. We don’t have a paywall because our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.Donate
For $20 you can get four issues of the magazine, a 50 percent savings off the newsstand rate.