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