By September 8, 2016 Read More →

Up for debate: Natural gas delivers climate progress in Texas

 Texas model demonstrates we can meet growing energy demand and address environmental concerns at same time

By Steve Everley


Texas electricity compared to other states

When you think of Texas, do you picture the clean energy economy? You should.

No state produces more natural gas than Texas, and thanks to fracking, the United States is now the largest natural gas producer in the entire world.

In 2015, the Lone Star State produced more than 8.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is about 88 per cent more than what was consumed by all U.S. households that year.

Texas is also the nation’s largest consumer of natural gas, accounting for over half of Texas’electric generating capacity in 2015.

That was more than double the second largest source (coal) and nearly three times as much as the third largest (wind).

Critics and anti-drilling activists have tried to paint natural gas as a “dirty” fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, calling for bans on fracking and indeed all fossil fuels.

The reality is that natural gas is helping us set an example for carbon reduction.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that the “rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling” had “increased and diversified the gas supply,” which was “an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, natural gas has prevented more than 1.2 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions since 2006, far more than the 789 million metric tons prevented by renewables. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that “natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future.”

In Texas, per-capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have declined 22 per cent since 2000. That’s a greater reduction than what regulation-heavy California was able to achieve over the same period. In absolute terms, per-capita emissions reductions in Texas were more than three times larger than in California.

It’s a well-established fact that natural gas reduces emissions. What is less appreciated is how natural gas is critical to the growth of renewables like wind and solar.

As with oil and natural gas production, Texas also dominates with wind power. The state currently has approximately 17.7 gigawatts of wind capacity, according to the Department of Energy.

That’s nearly three times more wind capacity than California, the second largest producer. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Texas is also projected to become the fastest-growing utility-scale solar market in the country.

The growth in natural gas and renewables in Texas is not a coincidence. A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found a linkage between the growth of both natural gas and renewable technologies in 26 different countries.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that natural gas and renewables “should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.” The International Renewable Energy Agency has similarly emphasized the importance of shale gas in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s worth noting, however, that the Texas energy economy is also built around the reality that our energy needs are both enormous and diverse.

Our world class refineries produce the gasoline that we use in our cars and the diesel that allows trucks to deliver goods all over the country.

Petroleum-based products serve as the building blocks for plastics, paints, and fertilizers. Wind turbines require lubricants and other oils, and the chemicals needed to manufacture solar panels are often made from petroleum.

What the Texas model demonstrates is that we can meet growing energy demands while also effectively addressing environmental concerns. If we want climate progress, we need natural gas.

(Steve Everley is spokesman for North Texans for Natural Gas, a pro-drilling advocacy group that recently launched the “Fracking for President” educational campaign.)

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