America is undergoing an energy revolution based on natural gas – with some interesting ramifications for the sustainability movement.
We are now virtually shaking natural gas out of plentiful shale deposits throughout the country. According to a 5/4/12 article in The Economist, we are now sucking out three billion more cubic feet of natural gas every day than we can consume. As result, prices have fallen from $8 per thousand cubic feet five years ago to about $2 today.
As a very clean-burning fuel, natural gas could be a big improvement over the carbon footprints of dirtier fuels, like coal, gasoline and diesel. This feature, combined with the growing economies of natural gas, is prompting a race to find places where it can displace other fuels for everything from heating homes to powering vehicles. There are some significant challenges in converting cars to compressed natural gas, but it’s getting a lot of attention.
Energy self-sufficiency and less pollution are clearly positive outcomes, but natural gas is still an emission-generating hydro-carbon and is, ultimately, not a renewable resource. Would a massive migration to natural gas stunt the growth of alternative energies like wind or solar? Would it put a crimp in the evolving market for electric vehicles and hybrids?
Maybe natural gas is a good transition step to better long-term renewable solutions. But, I am wondering if it might steal away hard-fought momentum toward truly renewable solutions.