elected officials on Capitol Hill and in many state houses debate and discuss
how to move toward a clean energy future by decreasing carbon emissions, there
still remains a lot of talk about dramatically increasing the use of natural gas
to produce electricity. Policymakers are still considering whether to support
initiatives that would replace some coal use with natural gas to generate
electricity. Since natural gas is already being used to generate about 23
percent of all U.S. electricity (coal is responsible for
nearly half), that suggestion would double the amount of natural gas
currently used by the electric sector at once.
order to have the best discussion possible on what needs to be in an American
clean energy portfolio, we have to take into account three important facts:
a plan to replace coal with gas could cost the U.S. almost 200,000
jobs involve coal mining, transporting coal, operating coal-fueled power plants,
manufacturing equipment, and providing supplies. It is likely that even more
well-paying American jobs would be lost as energy-intensive manufacturers are
forced to cut their payrolls to offset higher electricity prices caused by
switching to natural gas.
a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) raised serious
questions about the feasibility of fuel switching from coal to natural
CRS pointed to uncertainty over future gas prices, the location and availability
of electric transmission capacity, and the possibility of overstressing natural
gas pipeline and storage capacity.
public-private sector partnerships—here in the U.S. and in other nations—are
developing carbon capture and storage technologies to achieve up to a 90 percent
reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fueled power
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is more expensive (on a dollars
per ton basis) to reduce carbon dioxide from natural gas-fueled power plants
than from coal-fueled plants. This is important because gas-fueled plants will
not be able to meet the long-term requirements of the most climate change bills
being discussed in Congress without installing CCS.
U.S. must be able to rely on all our domestic energy resources that can provide
affordable, reliable electricity. Like coal, natural gas has an important
role to play in America’s energy future. But, replacing coal with natural gas
will not accomplish our nation’s economic, energy security, and environmental
goals. Instead, with advanced technologies like carbon capture and storage,
our clean energy portfolio can be balanced and diverse.