Potential bans on natural gas utility hookups in new and renovated homes and office buildings, along with federal-level policies incentivizing homeowners to electrify, lead many Americans to incorrectly believe that natural gas is the enemy in our fight against climate change. In truth, the natural gas industry is poised to play a massive role on our road to a cleaner energy future.
Encouraging innovations in renewable natural gas (RNG), hydrogen, and other technologies can propel us forward towards sustainable, cleaner energy, without taking on the risk of eliminating energy diversity.
In this post, we’ll explain why plans to limit the country’s energy supply to a single source is a shortsighted policy, lay out the promising clean energy advancements in natural gas infrastructure happening right now, and explain why support of these exciting innovations is needed at the government level in order to bring the clean energy benefits to all Americans.
The danger of a single energy source
The motivations behind the push for electrification are well intended. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is important to all of us. But the desire to reduce emissions too quickly has led many policymakers to ignore the reality that our already-overburdened electric grid is not ready to carry the full load of our nation’s energy demand.
Nor will it be ready any time soon, particularly with the high-energy demands of rapidly adding more electric vehicles to the roads and the inconsistent nature of solar and wind energy production.
Many parts of the country have already experienced brownouts or rolling blackouts during peak usage times. Imagine the potential for grid outages without having alternative energy distribution systems like our well-established and reliable natural gas infrastructure available for back up.
And the risk of energy shortages is just the beginning. When demand outstrips supply, the price of power naturally goes up to try and bring the market back into equilibrium. These spikes in the cost of energy are bad for residential and commercial consumers, and potentially devastating or life-threatening for the most vulnerable utility customers, which include low-income, the elderly and individuals with disabilities.
Natural gas is affordable and by far the most resilient energy source. A wiser path forward to achieving climate goals is to leverage improvements in a system that is already present, reliable and working.
Natural gas utilities are fully committed
Natural gas utilities invest billions of dollars every year in an effort to increase efficiency, diminish environmental impact, upgrade older natural gas infrastructure to reduce methane leaks, and drive the advancement responsibly-sourced gas and other technologies aimed at improving the sustainability of the gas industry.
Emerging technologies such as RNG, hydrogen and geothermal energy have the potential to expand and diversify our energy mix while minimizing carbon footprint. These advancements work to simultaneously attain clean energy goals while protecting consumers from market volatility, price spikes and unplanned power outages.
Unfortunately, not all utilities have access to these promising solutions. Smaller, not-for-profit natural gas systems serving rural communities simply don’t have money in the budget to invest in these groundbreaking clean energy innovations.
Government support can be a game changer
While many pilot programs exist across the country to incentivize investment in natural gas sustainability projects, policymakers could make an even greater impact by fully embracing the potential existing natural gas infrastructure has for driving progress forward towards our shared climate goals.
When all gas systems are sufficiently funded to follow best practices, everyone wins. And failing to support promising technology in natural gas today could rob future generations of yet discovered advancements in the years to come.
The importance of creating a level playing field
It’s far too early to choose one energy source as the all-out winner in terms of environmental stewardship – and doing so limits not only our energy security but also our ability to take advantage of all technological advancements moving forward.
Enacting policy that helps us to diversify our mix of low-emissions energy from all available sources is our smartest path forward, and this policy needs to include provisions and incentives for not-for-profit utilities to finance innovative projects aimed at building a cleaner, more sustainable, reliable energy system.