The natural gas boom offers embarrassments for both conservatives and environmentalists and is creating an unspoken bond of silence between both about gas's impacts on carbon pollution and the economy's competitiveness.
As I have noted, many environmentalists find it politically imperative to demonize gas, remaining silent about how gas is cutting carbon pollution right now by hundreds of millions of tons, or even insisting that it is dirtier than coal. See http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4664957094233317169#editor/target=post;postID=6369447391402786324.
Indeed, the big carbon cuts created right now by natural gas substitution for coal and oil are especially important, since these early reductions buy more time for commercialization of zero carbon options and to produce technological breakthroughs in areas like carbon capture and sequestration. No matter today's carbon benefits of gas, many environmentalists are mute or worse.
But over on the right, the natural gas boom challenges one of the conservative movement's main global warming policy tenets. Time and again conservatives assert that reducing carbon pollution means raising costs and making the economy less competitive, in addition to rejecting climate science's conclusions. The natural gas boom, however, is a strong rebuke or counter-example.
The natural gas boom has avoided annually up to 1 billion tons of carbon pollution by causing the substitution of gas for coal generation and oil, while lowering the price of natural gas as well as electricity in many markets.
The reduction in wholesale power prices in PJM, the world's largest wholesale electricity market, from July 2008 to today is the equivalent of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour or more. Many consumers who heat with natural gas have saved about $1,000 per year between their natural gas and electricity bills.
Indeed, using more natural gas, though a very big one, is just one of many ways that cutting carbon pollution can lower costs and save money. Others include a long list of energy efficiency measures as well as forestry and agriculture practices, to mention a few.
The substitution of natural gas for coal and oil is now the prime example of the truth that carbon pollution can be cut and the economy be made more competitive at the same time. It needs to be said, especially by those working to reduce the carbon loading of the atmosphere.