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Reid Detchon

Reid Detchon

Reid Detchon is vice president for energy and climate at the United Nations Foundation. He also serves as executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a broad-based non-partisan public policy initiative focused on oil dependence, climate change, and global energy poverty.


Use gas to phase out coal

Natural gas is the forgotten resource in America's energy debate.

Long thought to be a valuable but diminishing resource for which the U.S. would increasingly have to rely on imports, natural gas is now understood to be available in greater supply than the country could use for the next half-century.

Improved drilling technologies have made it possible to release gas trapped in vast underground shale reservoirs and produce it at affordable prices.

The implications for our energy policy are twofold:

1. Coal can be replaced by cleaner-burning gas in the production of electricity at much larger scale than previously thought. The oldest, dirtiest coal plants should be shut down immediately for human health reasons alone. Switching from coal to gas cuts carbon dioxide emissions roughly in half, a major global warming benefit. There is plenty of underused gas generation available, and it is far quicker, cheaper, and easier to install a new gas turbine than any other alternative.

Gas is particularly well suited to the needs of the electric power system as the use of renewable energy increases. Because power from the sun and the wind is inherently variable, other resources must be available to meet the system's needs on a minute-to-minute basis, and gas generation is better suited to that challenge than coal or nuclear power.

2. Gas can replace oil in transportation, most beneficially through the production of power for electric vehicles or hybrids. Because electric motors are so much more efficient than the internal combustion engine, cars that run on electricity from natural gas reduce greenhouse gas emissions far more than cars than run on natural gas itself.

A rapid transition away from coal in power generation and toward a combination of natural gas and renewable energy, along with electrification of the transportation system, would have major benefits for health, the environment, and national security.

By Reid Detchon  |  May 27, 2010; 11:13 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The role of gas to 2020 | Next: Oil and energy


Please report offensive comments below.

The country has experiences real non-imaginary harm from spending our money on imported oil. Spending that money here provides jobs and improves our own strength rather than giving it to oil producing countries. Oil money pays for terrorist infrastructure and weapons.

Mixing CO2 based nonsense just delays and diverts resources from real problems. We should be focused on using natural gas and coal to replace foreign oil, and on making our solution available worldwide. Reversing the flow of funds would return our economy to strong growth and reduce the economies of those who would do us harm.

The Al Gore propaganda film and the Government 'Scientist' community pushing their phony global warming issues have done more harm, and are causing more continuing harm, to this country than all of our enemies put together.

The climate has warmed and cooled for billions of years and will probably continue to do so. The current temperature ranges are not unprecedented or even unusual in the period since the last ice age. Most likely temperatures will decline over the next thirty years, but the damage from ongoing wastage of resources on CO2 fantasies continues.

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | May 30, 2010 2:02 PM
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