Tom Friedman: The Amazing Energy Race

Here is a link to a thoughtful piece by Tom Friedman on energy policy.  Among his comments:

  • The headline from Obama’s speech was his decision to cut America’s carbon emissions by bypassing a dysfunctional Congress and directing the Environmental Protection Agency to implement cleaner air-quality standards. If the rules are enacted — they will face many legal challenges — it would hasten our switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation.
  • Natural gas emits about half the global-warming carbon dioxide of coal, and it is in growing supply in our own country. As a result of market forces alone, coal has already fallen from about one-half to one-third of America’s electric power supply.
  • Marvin Odum, the president of the Shell Oil Company, told me in an interview that phasing out coal for cleaner natural gas — and shifting more transport, such as big trucks and ships, to natural gas instead of diesel — “is a no-brainer, no-lose, net-win that you can’t fight with a straight face.”
  • But, remember, natural gas is a fine gift to our country if, and only if, we extract it in a way that does not leak methane into the atmosphere (methane being worse than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming) and if, and only if, we extract it in ways that don’t despoil land, air or water.
  • But there is one more huge caveat: We also have to ensure that cheap natural gas displaces coal but doesn’t also displace energy efficiency and renewables, like solar or wind, so that natural gas becomes a bridge to a clean energy future, not a ditch.

Source:  Tom Friedman, New York Times, July 2, 2013.

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