Progressive Policy Institute Tells Biden That Natural Gas Is Critical To Climate Solutions
A “left-of-center” policy group has released a memo advocating that the incoming Biden Administration embrace the use of natural gas to help meet its climate goals and to compliment the increasing deployment of renewable energy sources.
The Progressive Policy Institute published the memo to urge “President-elect Biden to strike a new bargain between the federal government and natural gas companies for decarbonizing the natural gas sector.”
It is a pragmatic approach from the group and a sharp rebuttal to the numerous fringe environmental activist groups like the Sunrise Movement, 350.org, and Greenpeace that are demanding the Biden Administration shift away from natural gas and fracking as fast as possible.
In fact, PPI says that approach advocated by those fringe groups will actually hurt the efforts to address climate change because it will be too much pressure too soon on renewable sources:
“Given these realities, demands to ‘ban fracking’ or keep shale gas ‘in the ground’ are not consistent with a balanced approach to decarbonizing the electric grid.”
Instead, PPI argues that natural gas and renewables should not be seen as opposing forces, but compliments to each other because the former provides fast, baseload power when the latter goes offline:
“Natural gas can play an indispensable role in managing the risk that a precipitous leap to renewables will make electricity more expensive and potentially less reliable. Gas already supports the expansion of renewable energy by providing an instantly dispatchable source of electricity. Unlike coal and nuclear plants, natural gas power plants turn on and off within minutes, allowing the grid to quickly match supply and demand even when the wind isn’t blowing, and the sun isn’t shining.”
This balanced approach from PPI has been firmly in the mainstream for years now. In 2016, the Washington Post highlighted a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research with the headline: “Turns out wind and solar have a secret friend: Natural gas.”
Similarly, PPI’s memo also cites other research supporting the strategy:
“As the National Renewable Energy Laboratory points out, this unique flexibility of natural gas generation thereby facilitates the steady expansion of renewables. As we move toward decarbonization, retaining sufficient natural gas generation to backstop wind and solar power would reduce costs and increase reliability compared to a grid that relies entirely on renewables.”
Delivering further pushback to fringe environmental groups, PPI said the goal of American energy policy should be lowering emissions, not banning fossil fuels.
“Rather than trying to ban fossil fuel production, progressives should keep their eyes on the real prize: achieving net zero carbon emissions. Because of the uncertainties surrounding the success of any of the technologies and methods mentioned above, no one can precisely predict how long it will take America to decarbonize its economy.” (emphasis added)
To accomplish that decarbonization goal, the memo cites the need to ramp up carbon capture and storage and other technologies to identify and plug methane leaks. These are all efforts that are well underway in the natural gas industry.
ExxonMobil and Pioneer Natural Resources are partnering with the Gas Technology Institute, the University of Texas, and the Environmental Defense Fund to “develop comprehensive, continuous monitoring of methane emissions” in the Permian Basin. ExxonMobil is part of another project, along with Chevron and Shell, helping to deploy new technology from the Rocky Mountain Institute to “track how much methane they’re emitting, and what methods are best reducing methane leaks.”
As Energy In Depth noted last week, further progress on decarbonization can be made by building new and improved energy infrastructure to ensure that natural efficiently makes it to market.