The Natural Gas Revolution
Solar this… wind that…renewable everything. We are on our way to a brave new green energy world… or are we?
Fossil fuels get a bad rap. They are not renewable and are destroying the world through harmful CO2 emissions.
Those convinced that fossil fuel days are over might check out this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) Natural Gas Weekly Update.
Fossil fuels are not only alive and well, but more environmentally and economically friendly than ever before.
Dry Shale Gas Production
In just five and a half years shale gas production has jumped an astonishing 5.8 times from under 5 billion cubic feet a day to over 26 billion. It’s an increase of 578%. That revelation from the above graph is the hidden gem presented in this week’s update.
The colored bands represent where the gas was produced. Of particular interest is the dark brown wedge near the top that appears out of nowhere in 2010. It’s the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania and West Virginia made infamous in the fracking protest movie GasLand.
Most shale gas came from North Dakota before 2008. Though North Dakota’s Bakken production remains steady, most shale natural gas now comes from the gulf coast region and Marcellus.
New Electricity and Shale Gas
Natural gas and new electric capacity coming online go hand in hand. That is shown in a new capacity graph published this week in EIA’s March 8, 2013 ‘Today in Energy’ report.
This graph shows that natural gas is responsible for most of the new electric generating capacity that came online in 2012. It is shown in yellow.
Once cheap coal was king. Coal-fired electric plants are still coming online, but it’s in serious decline from years past. Natural gas is the new king!
Note the great big green chunk of wind energy that came online in December. That was because government subsidies for wind power were set to end on January 1st. To qualify for them, new capacity had to be online by then. That triggered a December stampede to get new production up before subsidies ran out.
Wind energy is expensive. It’s start-up costs are high and it raises consumer electric bills. It is not remotely competitive without taxpayer support.
At some point this year in a speech somewhere it’s likely the President will glow over solar energy growth of 113% in 2012. Natural gas increased only 22%. Solar is catching up, right? Wrong!
Solar energy is noteworthy by its absence in the above graphs. It’s included under ‘other’.
What the President will not mention is that solar and photovoltaic combined supplied only 0.3% as much energy as natural gas. No wonder it doesn’t show! Natural gas supplied 84,103 thousand megawatt hours in 2012. Solar/photovoltaic supplied just 258 thousand.
Natural gas brings with it a cheap, environmentally clean large source of new energy. Already, clean-burning natural gas has reduced overall U.S. CO2 emissions by 5% and that trend will continue. In this economy its lower cost is a godsend.
All the expensive renewable sources President Obama talks so much about that get all the R&D money and huge government subsidies haven’t measurably reduced gaseous CO2. They have raised energy prices. Under Obama, both oil and gas production on federal lands have been reduced.
Projecting 40 years out, the EIA says fossil fuels will still supply nearly 78% of all U.S. energy. Fossil fuels may not be renewable but they will be our most important energy source for at lease a half century to come.
President Obama has the right ideas about energy, but at the wrong time and in the wrong economy. According to the BEA, CBO and just about everyone else, the U.S. economy is down and will remain so for years to come. Energy costs are a primary driver of economic growth. Lowering energy costs puts money into businesses and consumer’s pockets that boosts demand more effectively than government spending.
The natural gas revolution is here. Instead of fighting it, it should be embraced. It’ll help save the economy and save the planet.