Natural Gas and Climate Change

June 25, 2019

A recent headline really caught my attention. It read, Natural gas is to climate change what our mediocre exercise and diet regimes are to our health: far from perfect but better than nothing.

The article listed a host of illustrative points, including:

  • Natural gas, which is becoming the world’s dominant energy, emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal. That’s why it’s emerging as a good-enough-for-now solution to climate change. But since it’s a fossil fuel, it still produces heat-trapping emissions.

Natural gas was the fastest-growing energy source last year —accounting for 45% of all such growth — with most regions and many industries turning to the fuel as a cleaner alternative to coal and oil, according to an International Energy Agency report. It’s set to keep growing in the coming years.

  • Natural gas is not without its merits – it is an excellent alternative to coal, which is without argument a much less clean fuel source. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane, a clean fuel that emits few air pollutants when burned in stove tops, in power plants to generate electricity, or to power vehicle engines. However, when methane is emitted directly into the atmosphere (and not burned), it is a potent greenhouse gas.

I believe that this why the author states that natural gas is a less than perfect solution, but what is not discussed is what happens if those emissions are reduced. ONE Future’s member companies are focused on reducing methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain, delivering more value to our customers, while also meaningfully reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Going back to the health analogy at the start of the article:

  • Doctors say we should eat several servings of vegetables daily and exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Yet most of us fail to live up to those recommendations for numerous reasons: We’re unmotivated, busy, can’t afford healthy food, really like unhealthy foods, etc.
  • While we don’t do perfectly what the doctor recommends, most of us also at least try to fit in exercise and opt for the salad over the fries because we want to prevent health conditions today and as we age.

That is where the difference lies. ONE Future member companies are motivated to reduce methane emissions. In fact, ONE Future was able to surpass its 1% goal when reporting 2017 numbers. We are following the doctor’s advice and it is leading us to sustaining natural gas even in a low carbon economy and we encourage others to join us so that we can do so collectively as an industry.