Rise in natural gas drives increase in global carbon emissions


Tyler Chalfant | December 10th, 2019

As representatives from nearly 200 countries meet to discuss limiting greenhouse gas emissions, a study released last week shows that global fossil emissions have risen for a third year in a row. This rise is largely due to an increase in the use of natural gas that has outpaced the decline of other fossil fuels, including coal.

The growth in emissions largely comes from China and India. While emissions in North American and European countries are gradually declining, these countries still consume 5 to 20 times as much oil per capita as China and India. Therefore, as car ownership and air travel in Asia increase, global oil consumption is expected to rise.

This prediction is part of a larger trend. Natural gas, often viewed as a cleaner “bridge fuel” used to replace coal and other fossil fuels, as well as renewables, are being used to provide new energy to new consumers, not just replacing other fossil fuels. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel globally, but has been presented by energy companies as a long-term solution. 

As coal has declined in recent years, the U.S is projected to see a 3.5% rise in natural gas use in 2019. The University of Iowa has increased natural gas use, rising 61% between 2014 and 2018, as the primary means of displacing coal in its power plant. When University President Bruce Harreld declared a climate crisis on Monday, he said that the university wants to substitute natural gas as well and move towards biomass.

Because of these trends in oil and natural gas use make it likely that we will see another increase in carbon emissions in 2020. One major obstacle to meeting the goal of a 2 degrees Celsius increase limit, set in the Paris Climate Agreement, is establishing international carbon markets, an issue that could be decided in Madrid this week. 

Senate votes to preserve Obama-era methane gas regulation


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This methane gas collector near Tuscan, Arizona pipes methane from a landfill to Tuscan Electric Power where it is used to generate electricity. (Gene Spesard/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | May 12, 2017

The U.S. senate voted on Wednesday to uphold an Obama-era rule that limits the release of methane from oil and gas production on federal land.

The Republican-majority senate voted 51-49 to block the resolution. Three GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona voted with their democratic colleagues against the motion. Senate Republicans proposed  repealing the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). So far in 2017, 14 regulations have been repealed under the CRA including a stream buffer rule aimed at keeping coal mining debris from entering waterways and another rule that gave the public some say about what happens to federal land.

President Obama updated the decades-old-rule that governs the venting and flaring of methane gas and regulates natural gas leaks. Upon the rule’s establishment, the Obama administration projected it could keep 41 billion cubic feet (BCF) of natural gas per year from going to waste. Methane, which is often released during the production of natural gas, is short-lived but 100 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Republican senator John McCain agreed with those hoping to keep the rule in place. He said, “Improving the control of methane emissions is an important public health and air quality issue, which is why some states are moving forward with their own regulations requiring greater investment in recapture technology.”

Opponents of the rule say that it discourages U.S. energy production and hurts state and county revenue streams. However, the Western Value Project estimates that the U.S treasury would have lost out on $800 million in royalties from oil and gas production over then next decade if the rule had been revoked.

Alliant Energy converting Clinton generating station to gas


Photo by Duke Energy; Flickr

Alliant Energy plans to convert the fuel source of the M.L. Kapp Generating Station in Clinton from coal to natural gas in the spring of 2015.

The move is anticipated to reduce the facility’s total nitrogen oxide, particulate, mercury and carbon dioxide emissions and nearly eliminate sulfur dioxide emissions.

To learn more, head over to The Gazette.

“Time is running out on Midwestern Coal”


Photo by Carlyn Ann Crispell; Flickr

Abundant natural gas, cost declines for renewables, and tight regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are slowly killing coal-fired power plants in the U.S. This dynamic is playing out across the country, but the results will be particularly important in the Midwest. Continue reading

Iowa Now in the Fracking Debate


Fracking is a largely debated issue, and protesting is common – Photo by billb1961; Flickr

Pattison Sand Co. of Iowa was sued by residents of Bridgeport, Wisconsin in an attempt to block a mine run by the company.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the underground pumping of water, chemicals and a special, hard, round sand. That helps open rock layers so rigs can pump out the natural gas and oil. Continue reading

On the Radio: Alliant chooses natural gas over coal


Photo by rocketjim54, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s episode highlights Alliant Energy’s decision to build a natural gas plant in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Influenced by environmental concerns, Alliant Energy has changed their focus from building a coal fire power plant to building a natural gas plant in Marshalltown.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading