Gas Attack? … Or Friendly Fire?

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.

Ally Renewables with Natural Gas

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…

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