Natural gas shouldn’t be the boogie man

Gas is the reason emissions and costs are down

IT’S IRONIC THAT SEVERAL DAYS after Emily Norton’s op-ed in CommonWealth (“Kill the Northeast pipeline“), the Department of Environmental Protectiion announced that greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts decreased from 2013 to 2014, continuing a downward trend that began nearly a decade ago.

Why are greenhouse gases down? Why do state officials say Massachusetts is on-track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction mandate by 2020? Natural gas. It’s cleaner burning and it’s less expensive than oil, nuclear power, or coal. And as older coal, oil, and nuclear power plants retire, we’ll need more natural gas to fill the void.

Natural gas used to be the fair-haired child of the environmental movement; now it’s the boogie man. And while we used to welcome new energy infrastructure, now some want to fight it – along with the lower costs and jobs it brings – every step of the way.

Meet the Author

Steve Dodge

Executive director, Massachusetts Petroleum Council
Environmental groups pushed the new owners of the Salem Power Plant to shift from coal to natural gas – a move with which few would argue. Now, every effort to add additional gas generation – by the way, funded privately, not with any public subsidies – is met with opposition, bolstered by concocted studies that are refuted by independent analyses, including studies conducted by ISO-New England, the independent, apolitical operators of the region’s power grid. For 20 years, the analysis of ISO-New England has been respected and stayed above the political fray of policy-making, but now environmental groups contest ISO’s findings with their own obviously flawed studies.

Most Massachusetts natural gas and electric customers, whether they are residential or commercial users, are fed-up paying some of the highest utility prices in the continental United States. Increased renewables will and must be part of the mix, but “killing” projects that will help ensure energy reliability and affordability for decades to come is extremely short-sighted.

Stephen Dodge is executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council.