Natural Gas is often referred to as a “Transition Fuel”. For most energy planners they mean the transition from dirtier fuels like coal and oil to clean wind and solar. For the purposes of this campaign, natural gas is a transition fuel but not to wind and solar which are also to be considered transitional sources of energy. Ultimately it is a transition to a nuclear age which is, undeniably, the only future for human civilization.
This transition will take decades. There will be a steady elimination of oil and coal as fuel sources which will be replaced by some combination of natural gas, wind and solar, and nuclear. The optimum combination will be determined over time and will no doubt lean heavily toward wind and solar as the cheapest currently available sources. But as the electrification of the economy continues, there will no doubt be more than abundant demand for natural gas.
Our task is to make sure natural gas is clean, safe, and economically efficient. Natural gas extraction and use releases a lot of carbon dioxide and worse, a lot of methane which is a far more potent greenhouse gas. We have to stop methane leaks now and build out natural gas with carbon capture in the future. And as natural gas is fundamentally a transition fuel it will go out of use at some point. We have to balance the cost of investment in this vital fuel with the reality that it is not a long-term investment and returns are uncertain. How to drive investment, often in the tens of billions of dollars, when no one knows how long it could remain profitable? That’s possibly the hardest question of all.
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, causing more warming at a lower concentration. Methane leaks from natural gas extraction and distribution infrastructure are a main source of methane emissions. These leaks are bad for everyone. It accelerates climate change and possibly eliminates the emissions reductions from converting from coal to natural gas. It also costs the natural gas companies money (though apparently not enough for them to prevent it entirely). Great strides are being made in reducing methane leaks. To make it happen as fast and efficiently as possible Ohio is going to:
- Monitor methane emissions at natural gas sites. Sharing this information.
- Substantially fine companies for continued leaks.
- Invest in improved monitoring equipment and seals.
“Fracking” gets a pretty unnecessarily bad reputation, in part from some not so good documentaries on the subject. It sounds scary and it can cause seismic activity and pollute water supplies. But most of that pollution and seismic activity is not coming from the process of fracking but the disposal of waste water in injection wells. We should eliminate waste water.
The current alternative method for fracking is to use propane gel instead of water. Propane gel will evaporate and be recollected with the released natural gas after use. Propane gel can also prove more efficient in extraction than using water. Other alternatives can also be developed and may have to be depending on the limitations imposed by patent protections on propane gel as a method of fracking.
Additionally fracking sites should be carefully monitored by the EPA. Regulation should prove unburdensome but thorough and effective.
Natural gas isn’t going away anytime soon but it is going away sometime soon. This represents a conundrum making proper efficient investment difficult. Do we make the investment in natural gas liquefaction and export infrastructure which would allow us to export the natural gas we produce in Ohio to the rest of the world? Or will most of the world leapfrog natural gas on the way to renewables and depend on domestic or near shore supplies for the natural gas needs it has? Do we build more natural gas power plants even though the rapidly plummeting cost of solar and wind could render natural gas cost uncompetitive? If we don’t build more in the near term we could suffer from higher energy costs but if we do build more, in the medium and long term, we may fail to recoup the cost of construction and the plants may be prematurely shuttered.
- Explore novel financing approaches for efficient allocation of capital and reliable, low cost energy.
- Future proof natural gas infrastructure.
- Build and develop plants with Carbon Capture and Hydrogen burning capabilities.
- Pipelines and export infrastructure prepared for export of hydrogen produce both from natural gas and electrolysis.
- Develop and export hydrogen technology around the world to ensure a reliable market for Ohio hydrogen and natural gas for decades to come.
- Invest in developing more efficient technologies for the extraction, export, and use of natural gas to keep it cost competitive while decreasing its impact on the climate and environment.