Appalachian Basin

Zanesville Times Recorder Notes Natural Gas is Benefitting Ohio’s Economy and Environment

This weekend, the Zanesville Times Recorder featured an article titled, “Cheap natural gas might help reduce global warming”. The article comes on the heels of a widely reported Associated Press report that indicated U.S. carbon emissions have dropped to a 20-year low, thanks largely to the increasing use of natural gas in U.S. power generation. With Zanesville and Muskingum County in the heart of Ohio’s Utica Shale development, its good to see the Zanesville Times Recorder is taking note of the benefits this development offers here, and across the country. This is easily noticed in excerpts from the article like the one below.

Because of a plentiful supply of natural gas produced by horizontal drilling and the fracking process, the price of natural gas has dropped from about $8 to $3 per unit, the lowest price in 10 years. This means that natural gas has a huge price advantage in the amount of electricity generated.—Cheap natural gas might help reduce global warming, 9/16/12

This huge price advantage has led more and more utilities to build natural gas-fired electric generation plants.  Here in Ohio, there are many examples of this trend taking root.  For example, North American Project Development LLC recently announced plans to build a natural-gas-fired power plant in Oregon, Ohio – a suburb just outside of Toledo.  Once complete, the plant is expected to provide enough annual power for the electricity needs of 500,000 homes.

According to the Zanesville Times Recorder article, and many other sources for that matter, these power plant switches have brought the U.S. closer to emission targets outlined in the Kyoto Protocol (a treaty the U.S. failed to ratify):

Although the U.S. has refused to ratify the agreement, the power companies’ unexpectedly rapid shift to natural gas has brought the U.S closer to complying with the GHG reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol. —Cheap natural gas might help reduce global warming, 9/16/12

That makes sense as according to the U.S. EPA natural gas is a much cleaner alternative to other fuels used in Ohio and elsewhere throughout the nation:

Compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides at the power plant.

As the trend towards natural gas utilization has grown in the power sector, so too have its benefits.  In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a part of the Energy Department, recently reported that U.S. CO2 emissions for the first four months’ of 2012 were down to nearly 1992 levels. This development, as well as others like it, prompted the International Energy Agency to note the United States has led the world in reducing its  carbon dioxide emissions over the last six years. It’s worth keeping in mind this has occurred without the need for a government mandate or an overly restrictive cap-and-trade system proposed in previous years.

Clearly, the increased use of natural gas as an energy source is making huge strides in CO2 reduction, but there is more to be done:

A government policy providing incentives for the installation of compressed natural gas fueling stations and purchase of CNG vehicles would further reduce carbon dioxide emissions and possibly slow global warming.—Cheap natural gas might help reduce global warming, 9/16/12

In Ohio, CNG vehicles are an increasing trend that can continue to add to these benefits.  Already Smith Dairy added a CNG fleet and fueling station to their operations and the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority has plans to switch to this fuel source as well.  Nationally, Frito Lay, Travel Centers of America LLC, AT&T, and Sunny Delight have all jumped on board given the significant environmental and economic benefits natural gas utilization provide.

In addition to vehicle utilization, there is still plenty of  room for additional growth in the power generation sector as well.  Natural gas currently accounts for just 5 % of all power generation in Ohio according to the Public Utilities Commission. That means there is plenty of room for expansion of natural gas utilization in power generation which will improve our environment while providing Ohio consumers significant cost-savings – studies showing Ohio consumers have already saved over $1.5 billion.

With increasing production and use of natural gas occurring in the Buckeye State, Ohioans are beginning to understand the full range of benefits associated with natural gas development don’t end with our economy.  In addition to dropping unemployment rates across the state and drawing millions in new capital investments natural gas is also improving our environment. Don’t take my word for it, ask the Environmental Defense Fund.

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