CA Sierra Club rips energy source that’s cut emissions: natural gas

July 8, 2013

By Chris Reed

sierra-club1A visit to the California Sierra Club’s priorities page illustrates one of the funniest and most ironic public-policy developments of our time. The club’s top three priorities are getting California “Beyond Coal,” “Beyond Oil” and “Beyond Natural Gas.” All fossil fuels are evil, you see.

But it is the gigantic boom in natural gas — not the subsidized, largely failed green energy revolution — that has helped the U.S. lead the world in reduction of the emissions believed to contribute to global warming. This reduction has come almost entirely because U.S. utilities have shifted from dirty coal to relatively clean natural gas, which is newly abundant because of hydraulic fracturing, which uses underground water cannons to free up energy supplies. The process has been around nearly 70 years but has become vastly more efficient in recent times because it has been enhanced by information technology that allows for much more precision in aiming of the water cannons. (This has also made the process much cleaner.)

Green think tank makes heretical case to green movement

Now an environmental group, the Breakthrough Institute, has broken through green dogma and put out a report making the case that it’s good to have abundant natural gas, even if it is an allegedly evil fossil fuel.

“The rapid replacement of coal by cheaper and cleaner natural gas has helped drive emissions down in the United States more than in any other country in the world in recent years. Cheap natural gas is crushing domestic demand for coal and is the main reason for the rapid decline in US carbon emissions. The gas revolution offers a way for the United States and other nations to replace coal burning while accelerating the transition to zero-carbon energy.

“In the United States, coal-powered electricity went from 50 to 37 percent of the generation mix between 2007 and 2012, with the bulk of it replaced by natural gas. Energy transitions typically take many decades to occur, and the evidence suggests that the natural gas revolution is still in its infancy. The successful combination of new drilling, hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’), and underground mapping technologies to cheaply extract gas from shale and other unconventional rock formations has the potential to be as disruptive as past energy technology revolutions — and as beneficial to humans and our natural environment.

“This report reviews the evidence and finds that natural gas is a net environmental benefit at local, regional, national, and global levels. In recent years, the rapid expansion of natural gas production has provoked legitimate local concerns about noise, air, water, and methane pollution that should and can be addressed. But the evidence is strong that natural gas is a coal killer, brings improved air quality and reduced green- house gas emissions, and can aid rather obstruct the development and deployment of zero-carbon energies.”

Fact-based analysis, not hyperventilating scare tactics

That is what a reasonable environmentalist sounds like. In fact, that is what the Obama administration sounds like when it is talking about natural gas.

But then, of course, Pulitzer-winning environmental reporters don’t think the president’s views on fracking are relevant to what’s going on in California. Tom Knudson believes there are some facts the Sacramento Bee’s readers just can’t handle.


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