Natural gas is a special energy source because it offers everyone a little something. Consumers enjoy lower utility bills, the economy gains from the soaring number of jobs, reasonable environmentalists witness the positive effects it has on the planet, and Republicans and Democrats can take credit for balancing growth with being green. But that’s not enough for one leftist publication, which is advocating that natural gas needs to go because it’s a “climate disaster.” This is just one more episode showing that the left is impatient and demands to get its way right now, like a petulant child at the supermarket crying for candy.
In an article titled, “More natural gas isn’t a ‘middle ground’ – it’s a climate disaster,” Vox contends that natural gas has become the go-to “moderate” policy choice for centrist Democrats. Citing how former President Barack Obama encouraged natural gas production with favorable executive action, the website lamented on its “bridge fuel status”: a fossil fuel that paves the road to slashing carbon emissions while alternative renewable energy sources are developed.
The thesis of the 2,200-word piece came in the sixth paragraph:
“You see, all those arguments for natural gas that seemed so compelling during the Obama years have fallen apart. It’s now clear that if the world is to meet the climate targets it promised in Paris, natural gas, like coal, must be deliberately and rapidly phased out. There’s no time for a bridge. And clean alternatives are ready.”
As Leporello says in Act I of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, “I must work night and day for someone who doesn’t appreciate me; I must bear the wind and rain, scarcely eating or sleeping!”
Or, put in a more hip and modern way, natural gas can’t get any respect.
We’ll Always Have Paris
Soon after President Donald Trump quit the Paris Agreement a couple of years ago, everyone went nuts, claiming that doomsday was nigh. This was even before Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) declared that the world was ending in 12 years.
Unless the Democrats win in 2020 and bring it back into the fold, the U.S. may not rejoin the 195 signatories. Considering how well the country is doing in reducing its carbon footprint, the question becomes: Who needs Paris, anyway? The nation has been doing just fine alone – before and after the arrangement.
Overall, annual CO2 emissions are at their lowest levels in nearly 30 years. The rest of the world? Not even close. The most important signatories – the economic juggernauts of the world – are increasing, not decreasing, their CO2 emissions, including China, the European Union, Canada, and South Korea. This led United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to concede that “we are not on track to achieve the objectives defined in the Paris Agreement.”
Only two countries are currently achieving the goal of slashing emissions by 20%: Ukraine and the U.S.
The U.S. can brag that this has been the general trend since 2005, though there have been a few spikes that were immediately followed by declines. So, what is helping the country lower its carbon footprint?
‘Molecules of US Freedom’
Recently, the Department of Energy announced the approval of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Texas. With the U.S. now a major player in the energy market, the plan is to increase export capacity and provide the world with “a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.” Steven Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy, who signed the order, called natural gas “molecules of U.S. freedom.” Now, that’s some patriotism.
The U.S. has broken the shackles of OPEC, achieving energy independence for the first time in decades. Now a net energy exporter, the U.S. is rivaling Russia and Saudi Arabia in output, and the country is not only cutting its emissions, but it is also helping others to do so as well.
At home, natural gas is quickly substituting coal for electric power. Despite the administration’s efforts to help coal towns across America, it is a dying industry – and natural gas is the one leading its demise. Today, natural gas powers nearly half of the nation, but coal’s contributions are significantly declining. Dozens of new gigawatts of natural gas capacity are coming online every year, while coal-fired plants are shutting down, both by government directive and the laws of economics.
Natural gas is a source that should be celebrated because it is cheap and better for the environment. Despite states putting a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the practice is generally eco-friendly. Studies have found that it is operational inefficiencies (sloppiness and ineptitude) that emit higher volumes of carbon, not the process itself.
The energy supply produces less pollution and greenhouse gases. Reports have found that it generates as little as half the carbon dioxide levels of coal, crude oil, and wood; it creates heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide during combustion.
It is often omitted from the discussion that most of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. is created domestically. Therefore, there is a diminished risk of an environmental accident, and less carbon sent into the atmosphere from shipping.
In the end, natural gas is a more reliable form of clean energy than wind and solar because it doesn’t need to rely on the weather to properly function. In fact, when solar and wind fail, utility companies depend on natural gas to keep the power on!
Going Green in the Red
In April 2019, Liberty Nation author Onar Åm asked an important question: “Is Renewable Energy a Boondoggle?” He wrote that green energy technology is cheaper because fossil fuels help construct it:
“Silicon and rare earth metals must be mined; tons of rock need to be removed to extract the minerals necessary to produce a solar panel. The mining machines and tools are made from steel, which is smelted using a lot of energy in big factories made from concrete, steel, and other energy-intensive materials.
In addition, all those materials were transported in ships and trains from every corner of the globe, and when the solar panels were produced, they were similarly carried to the end user.
That entire chain of events is based on fossil fuels. The reason it works so well is not only because oil and natural gas are cheap but also because the Energy Return on Energy Investment (ERoEI) in fossil fuels is so high. Today, if you spend one barrel of oil on oil extraction, you will get around eight barrels back.”
He adds that installing solar power in many parts of the globe requires more energy than the amount you would get back. Germany and Switzerland’s ERoEI is -0.17.
So, when Vox posits that clean alternatives are just waiting to be used by the rest of the world, the publication rejects the reality that solar and wind are not serious, affordable (for now), or reliable alternatives to fossil fuels. If the green movement really wanted to do its part, not enrich the wallets of politically-connected and soon-to-be bankrupt firms, then it would advance natural gas and nuclear energy.
Until scientists uncover a perpetual motion machine that will power the entire planet a la Isaac Asimov, we will have to do with what works, what is realistic, and what is cheap. Eliminating combustion-engine cars and replacing air travel with high-speed rail or giving everyone money for doing nothing only works in the mind of folk who do not reside in this reality.
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