EARTHWORKS

State of the Union reaction: natural gas is not clean energy

Lauren Pagel's avatar
By Lauren Pagel

January 26, 2011

I was heartened by the President s desire to end the massive subsidies we currently dole out to the oil industry, and invest in renewable energy. While we attempt to wean ourselves from all dirty energy sources, we need to end the subsidies, close the loopholes and institute policies that regulates fossil fuels in a way that best protects our communities and water resources.  

Yet, the clean energy section of the State of the Union speech mentioned several dirty energy sources. In the same breath as renewables like wind and solar, he also referred to so-called clean coal, nuclear power and yes, natural gas.

Natural gas has long been touted as part of the solution to climate change - a bridge to a renewable energy future.

Now it looks like the lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that have caused many to flock to natural gas are actually much less impressive than we previously thought. ProPublica reported yesterday that a new EPA study increases estimates of methane released as fugitive emissions and during venting and hydraulic fracturing. When all is said and done, natural gas may only be 25% cleaner than coal at least in terms of GHG emissions -- down from the 50% number of the past.

Those pushing natural gas as a transition fuel also overlook the other dirty impacts that natural gas extraction has on communities, water, air and public health. Natural gas production has caused serious problems across the country -- from Wyoming to Pennsylvania. People are finding their water supplies polluted; air quality is diminished, and their property values are in decline.  Knowing these devastating impacts, no one, including President Obama, should be referring to natural gas a clean energy.

Increasing our dependency on one dirty fossil fuel to wean ourselves from another isn t a policy that moves us towards a real renewable energy future. Last time I checked, gas drilling companies weren t required to direct their profits towards creating wind farms or research into the possibilities of increasing our geothermal energy sources, right?  

Our number one priority should be doing everything in our power to move us towards real clean, renewable energy. We need to realize that natural gas will always be a dirty fossil fuel, and the impacts associated with gas production and turning that gas into electricity are not clean by any stretch of the imagination.

Tagged with: subsidies, state of the union, sotu, renewable energy, president obama, obama, natural gas, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change

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