This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Winter - 2016


by Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association

ONLY A FEW SHORT YEARS AGO, environmental groups championed the increased use of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to the future. But today, in some environmental circles, natural gas use is being shrugged off as a mere “exit ramp” away from fossil fuels.

Natural gas is more than simply a bridge fuel or an exit ramp. In fact, it is the only realistic means to achieving our nation’s bold plans to reduce carbon emissions while still providing a low cost, reliable and efficient source of energy.

Natural gas is widely accepted as the cleanest burning fossil fuel when it comes to power generation, emitting half the carbon dioxide of coal and less sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and particulate matter. However, some are calling into question the degree of environmental benefits from natural gas given that its production can produce methane.

Yet, while oil and natural gas production has gone up in recent years, methane emissions have actually gone down.

The oil and gas industry has worked diligently to reduce methane emissions through innovative and high-tech leak detection and repair programs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports a 20 percent methane emissions reduction over the past 20 years in the midst of a 40 percent increase in natural gas production. In fact, on an emissions rate basis, “2015 will be the cleanest year in over 60 years for which we have historical data,” according to a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.

Additionally, the EPA’s own data show that while the United States added more than 86,000 new oil and gas wells, an increase of 7.5 percent, methane emissions decreased by about 11 percent from 2005 to 2012.

In March 2015, a report from the federal government found methane leakage rates from three major shale regions were in line with EPA’s estimates at 1.1 percent of production, which was well below the threshold for natural gas to maintain its climate benefits.

All of this research, along with stacks of reports from MIT, the University of Maryland, U.S. Department of Energy, Carnegie Mellon, and Cornell University just to name a few, con rm Secretary of Energy Ernie Muniz’s statement: “About half of that progress we have made [on greenhouse gas emissions] is from the natural-gas boom.”

So yes, natural gas is changing the face of electricity generation while reducing greenhouse gases. But we also must not forget that natural gas is a part of our everyday lives beyond turning on the lights and heating our homes. Natural gas is a key building block for many of the items we rely on daily, including our food. We also find natural gas byproducts in our clothing, shampoo, cell phones, cold weather and rain gear, computers, insulation, and medicines.

It’s easy to view natural gas through a single lens — a mirror that confirms one point of view. But it’s a real solution and with a projected increase in worldwide energy demand as high as 33 percent, now is not the time to turn our backs on
a known solution that is truly helping the people of the world and the environment.