The activists at Oil Change International said they wanted to dispel what they call the “myth” that American natural gas is a solution to climate concerns in their latest report on our clean energy future.
Instead, they relied on and repeated their own tired “Keep It In the Ground” (KIITG) myths while ignoring key data and science showing that natural gas is a critical tool in supporting America’s leading role in reducing emissions.
The report makes several incorrect claims regarding natural gas demand, its climate benefits, methane emissions, and the role of renewable energy while failing to provide any real-world direction on how we’ll power the globe without natural gas.
Perhaps it’s no surprise the report carries the endorsement of numerous fellow KIITG groups that have a reputation of putting their agenda ahead of science, including 350.org, Earthworks, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Food and Water Watch and Sierra Club, among many others.
Natural Gas is Needed to Reduce Emissions
The report makes the bold claim that generating more electricity from natural gas “doesn’t cut it” in the fight against emissions. This position ignores all recent data showing that natural gas is lowering emissions.
From 2005 to 2017, U.S. natural gas production increased by 51 percent, while energy-related carbon emissions decreased by 14 percent.
And while the Oil Change report claims natural gas will prevent the United States from achieving the goals of the Paris climate accords, the reality is that the country’s already meeting the Paris commitments because of natural gas. In fact, natural gas has cut 50 percent more emissions than wind and solar power combined since 2005, and is credited for 61 percent of U.S. electricity generation CO2 reductions.
As Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell recently said:
“We were already well on our way in large part – and have actually since met what were proposed [Clean Power Plan] goals – primarily because of the shift toward cleaner natural gas.”
This is due in large part to the enormous climate benefits from increased natural gas use, which the scientific journal Nature recently outlined:
“We found that the coal-to-gas shift is consistent with climate stabilization objectives for the next 50-100 years. Our finding is robust under a range of leakage rates and uncertainties in emissions data and metrics. It becomes conditional to the leakage rate in some locations only if we employ a set of metrics that essentially focus on short-term effects. Our case for the coal-to-gas shift is stronger than previously found…”
Activist Claims Are Moving Further From Reality
The Oil Change report follows the KIITG playbook of assuming that methane emissions will rise dramatically with increased natural gas production. Data and research continue to show this to be a false narrative.
A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that total U.S. methane emissions have not increased during the past decade of dramatic oil and gas production, and that many studies pointing to a large rise in emissions from industry sources were flawed, resulting in drastic overestimations.
Meanwhile, researchers examining a global increase in methane in the atmosphere are increasingly convinced that it is not coming from natural gas, according to a UN Dark report.
“While there is no definitive indictment yet, the community of methane detectives seems to be getting closer to ruling out one key suspect. ‘The attribution that was pretty popular a few years ago was increasing natural gas,’ says Daniel Jacob, citing the combination of isotopic evidence and atmospheric inversion models by his group and others. ‘That’s gotten the wind knocked out of its sails a bit. We really don’t see evidence for that.’
“Some researchers, such as Robert Howarth of Cornell, remain convinced that fugitive emissions from oil and gas production — especially fracking — are systematically underestimated, and likely to be behind the global spike. ‘It’s a compelling narrative,’ says Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, ‘but the larger community does not support that view.’”
Methane emissions from America’s largest oil- and natural gas-producing regions have fallen while production rose dramatically.