Natural gas shouldn’t be the boogie man

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.

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.

Meet the Author

Stephen Dodge

Executive director, Massachusetts Petroleum Council
Stephen Dodge is executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council.

  • NortheasternEE

    Natural gas is cleaner than coal, but not cleaner than coal plus nuclear. If natural gas can economically replace coal fine. But, raising rates to build new pipelines to Pennsylvania gives natural gas an unfair advantage. Furthermore, state and regional RPS mandates for wind and solar also give natural gas an unfair advantage by not only forcing the early retirement of coal power, it is forcing the early retirement of nuclear as well.

    Killing nuclear along with coal will do little to nothing to avoid carbon emissions. Without coal and nuclear the system will be solely dependent on natural gas. Shortages will be inevitable. Look for the monopolistic supply of natural gas to force rates to skyrocket.

    In the absence of grid scale energy storage, only natural gas can provide the firming to stabilize the grid against the variability of wind and solar. We will be putting all our eggs in one basket. If economic development of energy storage fails, our economy will suffer as never before.

    Let’s take the politics out of the supply of electricity, and let our engineers provide us with the least expensive and most reliable combination of electricity regardless of fuel.

  • Van Dutchman

    Decreased greenhouse gas emissions? CO2 perhaps. Why are you ignoring the huge increase in fossil fuel / gas extraction related atmospheric CH4 Methane levels? Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Gas industry supplied historic Methane estimated emission statistics have been dismissed by new research that shows unacceptable and irresponsible levels of emmissions in the whole gas infrastructure. Like clean coal, clean gas is a myth. https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/09oct_methanehotspot + https://www.edf.org/climate/methanemaps

  • He says, “obviously flawed studies”. He doesn’t substantiate how the studies are flawed with respect to the impact on meeting greenhouse gas reduction requirements or the long-term costs to consumers of paying for the pipe and the gas that would flow into it.