Natural gas as a near-term CO2 mitigation strategy.
Sean Casten is president and CEO of Recycled Energy Development. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Discussions on CO2 reductions tend to start from a presumption of near-term economic disruption coupled with long-term investments in green technology. The presumption isn’t right. Simply by ramping up our nation’s generation of electricity from underutilized natural gas plants and ramping down our generation from coal, the United States could reduce its total CO2 footprint by 14 percent to 20 percent tomorrow with no disruption in access to energy services and no new infrastructure investments. The Waxman-Markey proposal to reduce CO2 emissions by 17 percent over 10 years is constrained only by its ambition.
The scale and potential for immediate impact deserves consideration, as even partial action toward this goal would have dramatic political and environmental consequences, establishing U.S. leadership and credibility in global climate negotiations.
About half of U.S. electricity is produced from coal, while roughly 20 percent comes from gas. However, this is caused by operations, not installations. The U.S. coal fleet runs most of the time, while (comparatively larger) gas plants tend to run intermittently, only during those hours when the lower cost coal/nuclear/hydro is unable to serve the full needs of the electric grid.