Jason Barton

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Natural Gas Is Fantastic Now, But Let’s Not Rest On Its Laurels

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This is a great example of apparent abundance of fossil fuels now becoming a strain on supply in the near future. Natural gas is clearly a comparatively clean option in the traditional energy matrix, and we ought to keep using more of it, decreasing our reliance on coal and imported petroleum. But if this article is accurate in its telling of nuclear and wind power generation decreasing because of increasing supplies of natural gas, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.

Another, recently posted article on this site listed about 90 years worth of natural gas available in the US, which I assume is based on current use levels. If we use more gas and less coal for electricity, and use more LNG to power our vehicle fleets, that 90 years will move down towards 50 years. Broadcasting that we have more than enough fossil fuels gives a false sense of security and lends itself to the license to continue wasting energy through inefficiency. Add in the disincentive to continue innovation in renewable energy supplies and the picture for the next generation gets pretty bleak.

Use the gas, sure, but let’s not make the ignorant assumption that we can continue with business as usual when it’s clear that, for economic, environmental, issues of national security, our energy system is in desperate need of an overhaul in the next two decades at the most.

Natural gas proves to be energy game-changer

Its sudden abundance is a boon to many and a pain to its competition


Oct. 17, 2010, 7:42PM

NEW YORK — By unlocking decades’ worth of natural gas deposits deep underground across the United States, drillers have ensured that natural gas will be cheap and plentiful for the foreseeable future. It’s a reversal from a few years ago that is transforming the energy industry.
The sudden abundance of natural gas has been a boon to homeowners who use it for heat, local economies in gas-rich regions, manufacturers that use it to power factories and companies that rely on it as a raw material for plastic, carpet and other everyday products. But it has upended the ambitious growth plans of companies that produce power from wind, nuclear energy and coal. Those plans were based on the assumption that supplies of natural gas would be tight, and prices high.
The U.S. uses natural gas to produce 21 percent of its electricity. Coal is the dominant fuel, accounting for 48 percent of the electricity mix. By 2015, natural gas is predicted to reach 25 percent, while coal is expected to fall to 44 percent.

Natural gas, which had traded at about $2 per million British thermal units in the 1990s, hit nearly $15 in 2005. It is now about $3.50, driven lower by reduced industrial demand and rising production by those learning to make a profit from shale gas at ever lower prices.

Plans for nuclear plants and wind farms were made under the assumption that gas prices would average $7 to $9. At that level, electricity prices would be high enough to make wind and nuclear power look affordable. Now many of these projects suddenly look too expensive.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 18th, 2010 at 9:34 pm