Natural gas is a menace to our air, water, local communities, and climate.
Total life-cycle emissions for gas and coal are nearly equivalent. Even if one considers only the carbon emitted from burning gas and ignores the methane released during production and transport, the latest studies from the International Energy Agency (IEA) reveal that a switch from coal to gas would lead to a global temperature rise of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius. This is an outcome we simply cannot afford. The scientific consensus is that we should accept a rise of no more than a 2 degrees Celsius or the effects will be catastrophic.
Reforming the way in which natural gas is produced is just one small part of the larger natural gas puzzle. The Sierra Club is working to limit our reliance on natural gas in favor of clean, renewable energy.
Preventing New Gas Infrastructure
The low current market price of natural gas creates a risk that new natural gas power plants will out-compete emerging forms of renewable energy in the electricity sector. The Sierra Club continues to legally challenge new natural gas plants and demand requirements that limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.
At the same time, we advocate for clean energy alternatives such as energy efficiency, solar, and wind. In the Pacific North-west, which will become America's first coal-free region over the next several years, communities are aggressively pursuing efficiency upgrades and renewable energy, including one of the nation's largest wind farms at Shepherds Flat, Oregon. Nationally, wind power has been doubled to we've doubled our wind power to 60 gigawatts (enough to power nearly 15m homes), and solar power has generated five times more energy than just four years ago. Iowa gets more than 20% of its power from wind. Soon, Colorado and California will be at 30% wind and solar. If we expand our investments in efficiency, renewables and a smart power grid, our energy future looks bright—but only if we resist the temptation to overrely on shale gas as a short-term answer to our energy needs.
Reducing Methane Emissions
The new source performance standards (NSPS) recently adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were a positive step toward alleviating air pollution caused by natural gas production. These new standards will capture hundreds of thousands of tons of air pollution, but they are incomplete: They fail to cover many sources of air pollution in this area and do not directly control methane emissions. The Sierra Club has legally challenged the EPA to extend oil and gas production rules to all sources and to control methane directly.
Our work at the federal and state level builds on this important work, with opportunities for states and the Department of Interior to directly regulate air pollution and require air pollution controls such as green completions.
Now is the time to embrace 21st-century solutions like solar and wind and electric cars, while requiring the oil and gas industries to pay for the pollution they create. The clean energy future is here -- but securing that requires putting natural gas back in the dirty box with its fossil fuel brethren.
Natural gas is not part of a clean energy future.