Natural gas, once the main part of the equation in the transition from coal to renewables, has been replaced by … nothing at all. The new climate change rule for power plants suggests instead a direct transition from coal to renewables.
Now, this is not the way to make friends. Especially since the gas industry held different expectations based on last year’s proposed clean power plan. As reported by The Guardian, “Under the clean power plan as proposed by Obama in June last year, gas would have permanently overtaken coal as the largest energy source by 2020.” Enter 2015 and gas is the uncle with the noticeable toupee left out of the family photo.
Obviously, the gas industry is up in arms about not having a place at the clean power table. Seriously, what happened? After all, natural gas is “cleaner” than coal when burned, emitting half the amount of carbon dioxide, and solar and wind depend on changeable weather conditions. Yay, the sun’s out. Wait, there’s a cloud. Yay, the sun’s out. Natural gas wants back into the family photo.
As reported in The Hill, Frank Macchiarola, the top lobbyist for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, said “the president presented a ‘false choice’ between natural gas and renewables… The fact is that for a diverse fuel supply, you’re going to need both out into the future. The likely scenario is that natural gas will be part of the long term picture because wind and solar are intermittent power sources.” Since power sources behave differently and our energy appetite is unlikely to decrease in the near future, it seems wise to have a wide range of energy sources.
On the other side of this debate are the environmentalists, who are quite frankly thrilled with leaving gas out of the picture. According to The Hill, “We’re thrilled about any opportunity to replace coal directly with renewable energy, because the whole idea of natural gas as a bridge fuel has become debunked as we get more and more understanding of how bad natural gas is, and how ready to go renewable energy is,” said Julian Boggs, the global warming outreach director for Environment America. “Deploying as much renewable energy as possible is essential to solving global warming. Natural gas can’t solve global warming.”
While its true natural gas isn’t going to solve global warming, its role in saving the planet isn’t so black and white. The government argues that the power plant rule will probably even end up increasing the use of gas. As for now, natural gas still has a place in America’s energy consumption, whether spoken or unspoken.