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Total Natural Gas Dependence Could Endanger Stability of Electric Utility Performance

February 26th, 2014 | by Morris Beschloss | Comments

In a personal contact from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a prestigious Washington, D. C. organization, viewing “climate control” from a rational, rather than an extremist political point of view, I was presented with the following assessment:

Staying on our current path would lead to a future powered predominantly by natural gas. This transitioning to a natural gas-dominated electricity system would barely change power plant carbon emissions between now and 2050. This is because, in addition to replacing coal, natural gas generation would also grow to meet much of the projected growth in electricity demanded during this time and replace the aging nuclear power plant fleet. Some key takeaways were given:

1) Natural gas accounts for 31 percent of the U.S. electricity mix in 2012, and could grow as high as 56 percent by 2050, according to projections of what could happen if we stay on our current path of obliterating coal use.

2) Instead of over reliance on natural gas, a combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy could significantly reduce U.S. emissions from the more than 2,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012 to just 176 million metric tons by 2050.

3) In addition to carbon emissions from a natural gas plant’s smokestack, the leaking of methane – a primary component of natural gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat from drilling sites and pipelines poses a serious risk to the climate. As outlined in further-detailed information, emissions from 2012 are estimated to be the equivalent between 25 and 231 average coal-fired power plants.

4) A natural gas power plant built today will continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere for several decades, making the policy and investment decisions made today critical in helping to expand the climate crisis.

While natural gas could play a positive role in the transition to a clean energy economy, a wholesale switch from coal to natural gas is not only insufficient to meet U.S. climate goals, but would actually regress them.

This analysis further magnifies the dangers of bankrupting America’s coal industry, done purely to further the goals of “climatological purists,” enjoying the unchallengeable backing of the current Administration.

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