Natural Gas… Clean Energy or Just Hot Air?

by Jeff Rubin | February 22, 2019

Natural Gas… Clean Energy or Just Hot Air?

Every year tens of thousands of furnaces are replaced. If we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change we better get this right.

Natural gas... not as clean as advertised
Looks clean in the picture, but…

Question: What is the typical lifespan for a residential boiler or furnace? Answer: about 20 to 25 years. That means every year about 5% of all the boilers and furnaces currently in service need to be replaced. The biggest trend in replacing those tired, old oil fired appliances is to retrofit with ones that run on natural gas. Those systems are going to be in service for the next 20 to 25 years so it’s pretty important we get this right!

Natural gas facts

While it is true that natural gas is lower in carbon dioxide emissions then oil or coal, carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas. The methane released in the production and consumption of natural gas is actually 100 times more potent and damaging in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The greenhouse gas effects of natural gas keeps us on the exact same climate disaster trajectory as coal! The data behind this is nicely laid out in this scientific paper from Cornell University.

Search: The pros and cons of natural gas

There is so much bad information on the internet! This from no less than the United States Department of Energy:

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, though the global warming emissions from its combustion are much lower than those from coal or oil. Natural gas emits 50 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) when combusted in a new, efficient natural gas power plant compared with emissions from a typical new coal plant [1].
[1] National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). 2010. Cost and performance baseline for fossil energy plants, Volume 1: Bituminous coal and natural gas to electricity. Revision 2. November. DOE/NETL-2010/1397. United States Department of Energy.

Ummm, did I read that right? “…the global warming emissions from its combustion are much lower than those from coal or oil.” That’s only true if you don’t count methane as a greenhouse gas—which it is.

Honestly, this makes me mad as hell. It’s the same old story of the fossil fuel industry using disinformation (and lobbying) to enrich a small group of plutocrats over the welfare of future generations. It’s unconscionable. Here’s how we fight back: learn about your options, and spread the word by joining us on social media.