By September 8, 2016 Read More →

Why Texas should love Obama’s environmental rules – John Hanger

Embracing methane leak regulation will protect the climate and strengthen the gas industry’s reputation

By John Hanger


U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a roundtable with CEOs to discuss efforts to tackle climate change both in the United States as well as on a global scale at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. on October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Steve Everley says, “If we want climate progress, we need natural gas.” I don’t agree with all Everley argues, but we do agree on this. A supreme irony is that his home state of Texas, which produces the most natural gas, elects officials who deny that climate change is real.

Though Texas natural gas emits much less carbon, soot, mercury and other pollution than coal, Texas officials have attacked in court and Congress EPA’s Clean Power Plan and other EPA rules that favor natural gas, renewables, and nuclear over coal.

Fortunately for cleaner burning natural gas, President Obama and his EPA took seriously climate change as well as illness caused by ozone, soot, and mercury air emissions from power plants. In part because of these rules, natural gas has surpassed coal as America’s top fuel for electricity generation. (Of course, its low price is the main reason.)

Despite howls that EPA’s rules would cause blackouts and skyrocketing bills, Texas shows that the combination of natural gas and wind power kept not only electric service reliable but also affordable.

Indeed, average electric rates in Texas are nearly 2 cents per kilowatt-hour lower than the national average.

Natural gas, wind, and now solar are winning market share, because important public policy favor them, and because they are now the lowest cost options.

The result is that America has generation options that are much cleaner and low-cost. And in combination, gas and renewables are reliable in all hours of the day, as Texas, with more than 17,000 megawatts of wind generation, proves everyday.


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Someday batteries will provide the backup for solar and wind. But now, renewables need natural gas in order to increase their share of total grid output to 30 per cent, 50 per cent or even more.

All of this is to say: State officials — be they in Ohio or Oklahoma, Texas or Kansas — should be cheering the federal rules aimed at cutting emissions and cleaning up pollution. If the industry that Everley represents — the oil and gas drillers — prodded them, they just might.

Two last points need to be made.

First, burning more natural gas by itself does not cut carbon emissions. It does so, only when burning more gas causes burning less coal or oil, and normally that is the case.

It, however, is important to remember that, in a few cases where natural gas has replaced nuclear generation, carbon emissions rose.

Second, if the gas industry is serious about being a solution to the ever-more serious climate problem, it must cut methane leakage rates.

While some companies like Shell and Southwestern show real leadership in reducing methane leaks, the gas industry still attacks proposed state and federal rules that simply require the entire industry to do the very best practices.

Embracing methane leak regulation will protect the climate and strengthen the gas industry’s reputation.

(John Hanger is the former secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the president of Hanger Consulting LLC.)

Posted in: Politics

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