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MIT Says Natural Gas Best To Lower Carbon Emissions

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the pelican-friendly-solution dept.

Earth 284

eldavojohn writes "This week MIT released a comprehensive, hundred-page report entitled 'The Future of Natural Gas' that outlined the many scenarios the United States faces when aiming to reduce carbon emissions. From the New York Times recap: 'The scenario goes like this, according to MIT: Nuclear power, renewable energy, and carbon capture and sequestration are relatively expensive next to gas. Conventional coal is no longer a major source of power generation in the United States. "Natural gas is the substantial winner in the electric sector: The substitution effect, mainly gas generation for coal generation, outweighs the demand reduction effect."' Will this urging help to produce a policy shift from renewable energy (like wind) to natural gas for the United States?"

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Natural gas has one advantage over renewables (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708894)

It could work.

Too much has to change around the transmission/distribution infrastructure for the renewables to work. And scaling the renewables up to current needs promises to make them no cleaner and potentially not even more carbon neutral than what we have now.

Like it or not, the future will have nuclear and cleaner versions of hydrocarbons before renewables.

Re:Natural gas has one advantage over renewables (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708936)

Renewables will happen but it's going to take decades before they have a significant impact. As you say too much has to change for them to become the biggest producers of energy in our society today. However they are in the public's eye and that isn't likely to change. So slowly but surely they will be deployed on more buildings over time though it's like going to be fifty or more years before they provide even twenty five percent of our energy. That's because of the cost and the distribution issue.

Natural gas between energy sectors (4, Insightful)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709230)

A lot is going to have to change in the natural gas market to start replacing large amounts of our coal capacity with natural gas. Our distribution networks are hugely complex, aging, and very much tied to domestic supply.

Electric utilities built most of their base load capacity (coal, nuclear, hydro) before 1980, and a lot of this (the coal/nuclear part, that is) is coming up for replacement at the same time that demand has been creeping up, eating the surplus capacity afforded. The easy way out, especially with more investor-owned utilities (IOUs lol) and fewer state-owned, is to start adding to your generating fleet by installing plants which are only used several weeks a year at very high load. These are invariably plants which are cheap to build and expensive to run (because of fuel cost per kWh). NG-fired gas turbine generators are the dominating solution.

These low investment/NG-fired capacity upgrades all have their straws in the same glass, as it happens, and are being used for more and more weeks per year. Not only that, but they're also competing against the market that was practically made for NG, heating. We've been fortunate that, so far, the big summer peak in electricity consumption from air conditioning use has been on the opposite end of the year from the big winter peak in NG heating consumption. (with regard to both NG distribution and price reasons)

However, all this extra consumption is making NG prices are nuts, and--anecdote warning--I've seen a utility go a summer without running their GTs simply because it was actually cheaper to buy off another near-overloaded utility than to run peak plants on NG, which just never happened. Those prices aren't going to get any better running NG-fired capacity not only during the summer peak, but even during the not-to-be-sneezed-at winter peak. Coal is king, and the only way we're ever going to start replacing it or adapting to its decline in affordability is with thoughtful, long-term investments in efficient base load and phasing out of "temporary" capacity upgrades. This is not just a matter of one generation method/energy source being preferable to another, it's a systemic lack of strategy in our energy sector for preparing for changes which they already know will happen or imposed.

Re:Natural gas has one advantage over renewables (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709512)

Watch Gasland.

Re:Natural gas has one advantage over renewables (2, Informative)

KGBear (71109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709620)

Please mod parent up. Gasland is a documentary on natural gas and completely relevant to this discussion.

Re:Natural gas has one advantage over renewables (1)

IdolizingStewie (878683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709786)

Haynesville is another good relevant documentary.

Hmmmm. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708900)

Yes it will.

Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32708930)

Well, I've been an advocate of replacing coal power with nuclear power for quite some time, but even I'll admit that NG generally results in less than half the CO2 emissions for the energy production, and relative to a reactor is far cheaper to build. And nuclear promises to be cheaper than solar/wind for the amount of electricity produced.

However, you need quite a lot of it. NG, while cheap in many areas, makes me hesitant because I believe that when we go 'full bore' we'd exhaust our supplies fairly quickly and have increased expenses. Thus I'd like to see nuclear electricity production while we keep NG for heating homes and chemical manufacturing. Heck, you'd have to be rather round-about to make steel using nuclear energy, you can use NG heat directly.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708954)

one thing is for certain. niggers in africa never invented anything beyond primitive hand tools and sure as hell won't invent a solution to this either. the only thing they are good at doing is spreading thug culture to our youth and even then they use television networks designed and invented by the white man to do it. the end.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#32708988)

Well, I've been an advocate of replacing coal power with nuclear power for quite some time, but even I'll admit that NG generally results in less than half the CO2 emissions for the energy production, and relative to a reactor is far cheaper to build.

It would be possible to build a power plant which was multi fuel or even convert an existing one to a different fuel. Steam turbines don't care what the source of heat to produce the steam is.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709488)

It would be possible to build a power plant which was multi fuel or even convert an existing one to a different fuel. Steam turbines don't care what the source of heat to produce the steam is.

That's true for conventional steam turbines, but the really efficient natural gas plants are single fuel - they're built for NG. They use turbines that are a touch more like jet engines to help increase their thermal efficiency to over 50%.

You can convert a coal plant almost directly, but then you're stuck with the plant's existing ~30% efficiency.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708990)

wait till you're bidding against (subsidized) PG&E to heat your home at
3X the current prices.

what a sad thought.

jr

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (5, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709002)

We need multiple sources. I like solar from a purist standpoint: it's the primary source for all energy on earth save geothermal and nuclear (though it could technically be responsible for those, we'll ignore that). Still, I think solar conversion to electricity is still a long way from long term commerical viability. (yes, it's been done, but I don't see anybody making a killing in solar farms, despite the energy source being free)

Nuclear has the advantage of being cheap (at least, according to my electric bill, it's less than half the cost of coal per kWh)
Solar has the advantage of being great for A/C induced peaking loads
NG is very good for peaking loads which are not concurrent with solar generation

Of course hydroelectric is great for peaking, too - especially if practiced like France and Switzerland. The Swiss buy power from the French (nuclear) during off-peak and use it to pump water into dammed lakes, then generate power through those dams during peak periods and sell it back to the French. The challenege is that there are only so many areas which can be powered this way do to the need for proper topography.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (1)

dawgs72 (1025358) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709042)

I live in an area that contains both a coal and natural gas power plant. Everyday the coal fired plant burns away, but the natural gas plant is hardly ever producing electricity. Yes the natural gas is cheap, but that's the problem with it. Unless the price of natural gas is above a certain level the plant doesn't run. In recent memory the only time I know of it starting was to "jump-start" the coal plant, and then shut back down.

Black Start (2, Informative)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709160)

Yep, right now you see natural gas electrical generation at peaking plants as they can come on-line very quickly.

For jump starting a conventional plant that would be called "black start capability" as most power plants do not have enough electrical generating capacity to bring the plant on-line. Natural gas powered plants and hydroelectric are also referred to as facilities that are "black start".

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (3, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709676)

I think you have it backwards - the price of NG has to drop below a certain level for them to use it, or the price of electricity has to rise above a certain level.

This is part of why electricity can be expensive in some areas - due to fears about nuclear, and (justified) concern about the pollution of coal, they're pretty much stuck with natural gas. Unfortunately, NG tends to be the cheapest to build a plant for, but the most expensive on fuel - and Natural Gas is one of the more volatile markets.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (2, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709072)

I believe that when we go 'full bore' we'd exhaust our supplies fairly quickly and have increased expenses.

Not to worry. My engineers are working on a system of getting the gaseous emissions from folks who eat pizza, Mexican, and drink lots of beer. Part of the plan is to open restaurants where you eat and capture the gas at the same time.

We're also working on a capture of gas from cattle.

Our mottoes are "Fart Powered", "Flatulence For Freedom!", "Passing the Wind and the Bucks" and "Make a Stink. Cut out the Terrorists!"

How can this be? (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709082)

I admit I have not studied the answer yet. But... the energy release from burning 1 gram of coal is higher than the energy release for burning 1 gram of gas. SO how could it be the gas every beats coal for carbon reduction? I think also that of the two that gases tend to release more methane as well. In which case the greenhouse case is even worse than CO2.

Re:How can this be? (3, Insightful)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709286)

This is high-school chemistry.

Coal is carbon (with impurities). Oxidation of carbon is exothermic and yields carbon dioxide.

Natural gas is hydrocarbons, compounds of carbon and hydrogen. As before, oxidation of carbon is exothermic. So is oxidation of hydrogen, which yields water. To get the same amount of energy, you can burn a certain amount of carbon, or a lesser amount of carbon and offset it with hydrogen, which gives you lower carbon dioxide emissions for the same energy output.

Methane is CH4, a hydrocarbon. It burns along with the rest of the natural gas. If you are getting methane in your exhaust, it is because you are running your fuel/air mixture too rich, and you aren't injecting enough air to burn the natural gas completely.

And, of course, burning uranium (or, better yet, thorium, but we don't have the engineering of the thorium fuel cycle worked out yet) in negative void coefficient pressurized water reactors is far better than burning coal or natural gas, since there are effectively NO greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear plants.

Besides, natural gas is far too valuable as a chemical processing feedstock to burn it to make electricity.

Re:How can this be? (2, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709652)

Better check your sources... [wikipedia.org]

Natural gas: 53.6 MJ/kg
Anthracite Coal: 32.5 MJ/kg
Bituminous Coal: 24 MJ/Kg

Natural gas has around twice the energy per gram of coal, depending on whether you're looking at Anthracite or Bituminous.

Now, it's tilted way the other way if you look at volume - Coal is 72.4 or 20 MJ/Liter, vs .0364 MJ/L or 9 if you compress it.

As John pointed out, Coal is mainly carbon. 'Natural Gas' is mainly Methane, or CH4.

C+O2 -> Energy +CO2
CH4 + 2 O2 -> 2 Energy + 2 H2O + CO2.

Add in that NG plants can be more efficient than coal plants, 60+% vs ~30%, and you get a LOT less carbon dioxide from NG than coal.

Methane clathrate (2, Interesting)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709130)

We will not burn up all of the natural gas deposits for centuries to come. There is much more methane (natural gas) in hydrates than in all of the possible traditional natural gas reservoirs worldwide.

If you have been watching the news regarding the oil well disaster down in the Gulf of Mexico they have problems with hydrates condense out of the expanding column of oil and gas that forms hydrate ice crystals and blocks up the stack. (remember basic physics about expansion and temperature).

Hydrate deposits could be exploited in a controlled manner with the modest introduction of heat into a deep deposit to liberate the gas. To stop a well from producing, remove the heat.

Re:Methane clathrate (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709708)

We're never going to 'run out' of oil in the traditional sense, but just like with oil, additional sources tend to come from more difficult to extract deposits leading to increased costs.

As such, I hope to retain NG for stuff that natural gas is better at, such as feedstock for chemical production and heating stuff that it's impractical to use nuclear electricity to do so(smelting, for example).

Re:Methane clathrate (0, Troll)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709764)

The question is whether or not it's cost effective to do so. At the moment, it isn't. If we tax the hell out of coal and oil, it might be.

Pretty much we're at the point where we either have to legislate against coal and oil, or we have to tax carbon emissions heavily. There's no market incentive to stop with either.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709404)

I was also under the impression that NG co-generators were the most efficient electricity producers being employed these days. The gas is burned in a turbine, and the heat from the exhaust is used to power a second steam generator. Emissions are controlled, and every calorie of energy that can be efficiently extracted and used, is.

CO2 not a pollutant, NG has more greenhouse effect (0)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709510)

CO2 is not a pollutant. It is in fact essential for the Earth's life cycle. Plants would not survive without it.

If you actually believe that global warming is a man made problem, and believe greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced, you would not be replacing coal with natural gas (methane). Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Any methane infrastructure will necessarily have emissions [technologyreview.com] .

No, the reason people are going for natural gas is the typical myopic management of today. Building a natural gas power plant is very cheap, even if the fuel isn't. Since people plan everything on the short term today, what matters is the low initial capital costs, even if you have to screw your customers in the long term.

Re:CO2 not a pollutant, NG has more greenhouse eff (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709668)

CO2 is not a pollutant. It is in fact essential for the Earth's life cycle. Plants would not survive without it.

A meaningless statement. The fact is, nothing is a harmful in a small enough quantity, and nothing is safe in high enough quantity. You may as well argue that reducing salt intake to combat heart disease is stupid because sodium is necessary for survival.

However, you make a good point that methane is a horrible greenhouse gas, so reducing leaks of unburned methane would have to be a priority if we ramp up the natural gas infrastructure.

Re:CO2 not a pollutant, NG has more greenhouse eff (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709736)

CO2 is not a pollutant. It is in fact essential for the Earth's life cycle. Plants would not survive without it.

Water is not a pollutant, it is also essential in the earth's life cycle. We wouldn't survive without it. It still kills tens of thousands a year from overabundance.

I'll note that my reasoning behind getting rid of coal plants has always been more due to the pollution they produce than the CO2 they release.

No, the reason people are going for natural gas is the typical myopic management of today. Building a natural gas power plant is very cheap, even if the fuel isn't. Since people plan everything on the short term today, what matters is the low initial capital costs, even if you have to screw your customers in the long term.

It's also easy. Nuclear everyone's afraid of even though it has fewer deaths involved with it than pretty much any other industry, and coal is dirty. So getting approval for a natural gas plant is relatively quick and easy.

Re:CO2 not a pollutant, NG has more greenhouse eff (-1, Troll)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709806)

Water is not a pollutant. Plants (and you!) would not survive without it.

But too much kills either. Same with CO2.

Almost everything is a pollutant in certain concentrations, and kills things that depend on it. Try eating some pure calcium metal [youtube.com] sometime - it's not hazardous because your bones are MADE out of it!! Saying that CO2 isn't a pollutant is pretty stupid. Plants depend on it, but they also depend on a certain temperature range. CO2 changes that range. Plants also need a certain range of CO2. At the moment, most species are still doing ok. That's not a guarantee as levels continue to rise. Finally, pollutants aren't defined based on the effect on plants. There are other living things in the world besides plants.

Re:Natural gas - dependent upon fuel cost? (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709526)

Look...you mixing it all up!

Natural Gas doesn't pollute as much, they generate 3,000 MWh for 400 Simoleons. (0.13/MWh)

That is not enough power for our cities! I think we would need quite a bit of these plants and of course parks to mitigate the effects! Now if your considering this on a region basis, this shouldn't even be an issue because pollution can disappear over borders completely.

Source [wikia.com]

In the end its all how we zone, not where our power comes from...

Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (5, Informative)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 4 years ago | (#32708934)

That's nice and all, but you should keep in mind how lots of places in the U.S. get their natural gas these days. Through phracking [wikipedia.org] .

It's not a good thing. There are huge environmental concerns. Flamable drinking water, Neurotoxins and other poisons in drinking water. There's even a movie about it. [gaslandthemovie.com]

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708950)

I knew the moment I read the headline that some ass on Slashdot would decide he was a lot smarted than the folks at MIT.

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708968)

Thats A GURL

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32708996)

MIT just considered burning natural gas, not how you get it, and only considers the CO2 footprint.

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (1)

Eggnogium (1780346) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709048)

So MIT is smart enough to speak for the thousands of Americans living near natural gas operations that have flammable tap water from natural gas leaking into their watershed?

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709224)

I am the folks at MIT you insensitive clod

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709232)

MIT and LurkerXXX are considering different questions and arriving at different answers.

MIT says that natural gas is the best practical low-carbon-emission fuel.

LurkerXXX notes that current production methods are just ducky, as long as you hate groundwater and like cancer.

In agreement on hazards of wind power (1, Troll)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709062)

Because in the words of John Rowe, CEO of electric power generation company Exelon and a "believer" in the need to reduce carbon emissions, "Wind is a natural gas play."

Owing to the intermittent nature of wind, the need for 100% backup of generating capacity, and the ability to provide at most 20% of total electricity, wind is a way to in effect get an extra increment in efficiency in a natural-gas based electric power generation economy. As such, you can ascribe to wind power all of the evils you ascribe to natural gas production, only, about 20% less.

Re:In agreement on hazards of wind power (3, Informative)

Frekja (982708) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709724)

This is such a bunch of FUD. Several [wwf.org.uk] UK [nationalgrid.com] studies [poyry.com] show that very substantial carbon savings can arise from wind power even at 30% of total electricity provision.

The point about backup is that we have it already for existing plants; adding quite a bit of wind will have minimal impacts on this requirement, both in carbon and cost terms. Having substantial amounts of wind just means more intelligent load balancing from the grid operator, more flexible generation from existing fossil fuel/nuclear plant, and more demand management of consumption.

Again in the UK context, the Centre for Alternative Technology's recent Zero Carbon Britain report [zerocarbonbritain.org] shows how the UK could fully decarbonise without gas by 2030 (though it would take quite radical action).

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709196)

I wish someone would torrent it, I have been waiting to see it since Sundance, because now some companies are starting to talk about using these methods more here in nothern europe.
Even in these internet days, you can't see it out outside the US, one should think the creator would want to sell it on different movie ppv sites worldwide.

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709204)

Environmental impact is, in economic terms, all about externalizing costs. Furthermore, like any other cost the *margins* of environmental costs vary with volume and at some point consistently trend upward with scale.

That means that from an environmental economic perspective there is an optimal volume for something like natural gas. If reduce production, the slack is taken up by marginally dirtier sources. If we increase production, we are replacing marginally cleaner sources. At some point we end up letting the impacts of NG (as in from phracking) get out of hand, which only happens because we can pass them off to third parties (as BP did by passing the risks of DWH onto everyone else who was dependent on the Gulf to make a living).

So for a given level of energy consumption, there is an environmentally optimal *mix* of sources.

Efficient electricity distribution and local storage is key to making that possible. You can't put an environmentally optimal mixture of energy sources into an internal combustion engine car's gas tank, but you *can* do that for electric cars.

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709304)

That's nice and all, but you should keep in mind how lots of places in the U.S. get their natural gas these days. Through phracking [wikipedia.org] .

It's not a good thing. There are huge environmental concerns. Flamable drinking water, Neurotoxins and other poisons in drinking water. There's even a movie about it. [gaslandthemovie.com]

I thought you were talking about something else: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrack [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not a good answer. We need solar or fusion. (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709522)

I grew up on flammable drinking water with no fracking fracking involved!

really? (1)

X10 (186866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32708942)

Natural gas is better than biofuel, obviously, because for natural gas you don't have to chop down rain forests. But natural gas still produces carbon dioxide, unless chemistry has fundamentally changed in the last few days while I wasn't paying attention.
Making synthetic gasoline from solar energy doesn't produce a lot of carbon dioxide because what gets produced in your car, gets used when they make it, more or less. We'll use solar energy to make the stuff. That's not extremely efficient, but who cares? More solar energy is hitting earth than we can use anyway.

Summary is BS (5, Informative)

Enigma2175 (179646) | more than 4 years ago | (#32708960)

TFS says:

Conventional coal is no longer a major source of power generation in the United States.

I call shenanigans. Coal is the #1 energy producer in the US. The US gets 30% of it's power capacity and nearly 50 percent of it's produced power from coal [wikipedia.org] . I would love for that to be different but that is the current state of affairs and it is unlikely to change soon since the US has large coal reserves and it is much cheaper to produce power using coal than any other current fuel.

Re:Summary is BS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709032)

I think the rest of the power comes from useless apostrophes that people put into harmless possessive pronouns.

"The US gets 30% of it is power capacity and nearly 50 percent of it is produced power from coal "

DId that make any sense at all?

Re:Summary is BS (1, Troll)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709264)

Yes, because the primary concern when discussing potential fuel sources the the next millenium is deciding where to put the fucking apostrophe.

Have you got nothing better to do with your time ?

Re:Summary is BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709496)

"Do you have anything better to do with your time?

FTFY.

(P.S. - No.)

Re:Summary is BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709328)

Conventional coal is no longer a significant proportion of current construction. The largest part of our energy comes from coal, but we're not building any significant number of new coal plants.

Re:Summary is BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709392)

TFS is right (rock-on)... And besides: We're (America) sitting on the single best chunk of the world's coal reserves... in-short, we have the coal-equivalent of saudi-arabia sitting under the US, and the precise means to utilize it best (for power)... Unless you know how to convince/force China AND Russia AND UAE AND South America AND Canada AND Mexico... to render their most valuble natural resource to be utterly worthless... you're NEVER going to reduce carbon emissions. PERIOD. End of argument... that's just plain reality. SO get reazdy for whatever global warming is going to happen and stop whining like tree-hugggin little B1+c3zzzzz!!

Re:Summary is BS (3, Interesting)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709502)

I am getting a bit tired of everyone dumping all over coal. Anthracite coal is probably the biggest supply of accessible fuel this country has. If you care about energy independence coal IS part of the picture and should be a big part. Yes there are problems like what to do with the ash but nuclear has the problem of hazardous waste as well; and I am confident both can be solved.

Coal can be used directly for heat in industrial processes as well and does not always have to be first used to generate electricity. You can't do that with hardly any of the renewables. I say put our energy in to figuring out how to scrub and sequester carbon efficiently and burn the heck out of our coal supplies; can't use them up if we try.

Re:Summary is BS (2, Informative)

gotpaint32 (728082) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709746)

I call BS on you, Anthracite coal is too damn expensive for use in power plants. Power plants use Bituminous coal which is softer, contains more impurities and is far cheaper. Anthracite coal is rarer than other softer coals since it require very specific geological conditions to compress out the impurities from the carbon. Anthracite is also much more difficult to mine since the locations where it is found are usually found deep in the mountains rather than on flat coal seams like some other type of coal. Burning coal and its impurities lead to air quality issues (carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and incomplete hydrocarbon burns) as well as deposition of toxic metals in the areas where emissions particulates travel such as Mercury, Arsenic, Manganese, Chromium, and Beryllium. Coal power just sounds awesome compared to the other options doesn't it.

Re:Summary is BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709636)

TFS is right - America is the Saudi Arabia of COAL... and unless you want to render a multi-trillion dollar resource worthless... you'll drop this whole nonsense

Oh Boy... (0, Troll)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32708964)

...the environmental wackos aren't going to like this.

Natural gas = carbon emissions however reduced they may be.
Natural gas = drilling

Yeah, this ain't gonna fly. Just wait for the big fat raspberry from the greens.

Who paid for the report? (2, Interesting)

xzvf (924443) | more than 4 years ago | (#32708976)

My first question on any study is who paid for it? That said, natural gas is a better alternative to oil and coal. The real problem with alternatives like solar, wind and to a lesser extent nuclear is the cost per Kwh. I can by electricity generated by coal, oil and gas between $1-2 dollars per Kwh. If I replaced my electric with solar panels and batteries, my cost would be $4-5 dollars per Kwh. Tax credits reduce that cost, but they are still being paid by someone. Natural gas and nuclear are excellent bridge technologies while alternatives are brought down in cost.

Re:Who paid for the report? (4, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709028)

Gas and nuclear may have similar costs, but they're hardly alike when it comes to environmental concerns.

Gas still produces CO2, and extraction is messy.

Nuclear produces no emissions, and it takes so little uranium to make a plant that the issues associated with mining are small.

Re:Who paid for the report? (5, Informative)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709198)

The report is from the MIT Energy Initiative, which counts among its members: BP Technology Ventures, Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Total, Hess.

The Board of Advisors includes: "Tony Hayward Group Chief Executive, BP p.l.c."

Re:Who paid for the report? (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709214)

I can by electricity generated by coal, oil and gas between $1-2 dollars per Kwh. If I replaced my electric with solar panels and batteries, my cost would be $4-5 dollars per Kwh.

Where did you get those numbers? I guess you made them up, but if that's really what you're paying, you're getting ripped off.

According to this [doe.gov] , the average price for residential electricity in the U.S. is 10.86 cents per kWh.

Re:Who paid for the report? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709268)

He's talking capital costs, not ongoing use costs.

Re:Who paid for the report? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709366)

No, he is not.

Capital costs would be listed in dollars per kilowatt, not dollars per kilowatt-hour.

Re:Who paid for the report? (1)

mprinkey (1434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709750)

Capacity would be measured in kW or MW, not in kWh. Capacity is the amount of power that can be produced by the facility at any given time, not the total amount of energy that the facility could produce over its lifetime. Whatever the case, the numbers make no sense as listed in the OP.

Re:Who paid for the report? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709772)

Makes complete sense if you drop the H off of KwH, as coal has a capital cost around 1-2 dollars/Kw of generating capacity with solar quickly catching up to that.

Re:Who paid for the report? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709294)

Oh for averages. I'd love to pay ONLY 10.86 cents per kWh. Sadly a good portion of my PG&E bill goes toward electricity at 42.48 cents per kWh.

Re:Who paid for the report? (2, Informative)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709532)

These people:

"A major sponsor of the report is the American Clean Skies Foundation, a Washington think tank created and funded by the natural gas industry."

I have better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709004)

Build a couple large NG boilers thru lower 8 states on East coast, Run a massive pipe to gulf, and draw this incredible amount of gas to the boilers - all on bp's tab.

There - I just solved unemployment, foreign energy dependence, global warming, electric distribution network upgrade, mess in golf.

Yeah, that will work (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709010)

Burn more fossil fuel to lower CO2 emissions?

And this:

MIT projects natural gas vehicles will be 15 percent of the private vehicle fleet by 2050

Manufacturers have been trying to introduce natural gas cars for decades. The technology is there, but nobody bought them and nobody will.

The price of natural gas is coupled to the price of oil. Look at the economic wars being fought over natural gas in Europe right now. No way will this be cheaper than other fossil fuels.

Stick a pipe under my ass (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709012)

I'm sure you'll be able to power at least a reading light. Yet another reason why nerds are useful to women.

What's with the title? (1)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709016)

So, is this just an advertisement for the natural gas industry? Why not title it something like, "The Future of Energy Production in the U.S.'?

Re:What's with the title? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709050)

It's a story about a study, not a link to a blog that regurgitates some press release from USA Natty Gas Inc.

Are you too lunkheaded to understand the difference or are you just a troll?

Re:What's with the title? (1)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709108)

Yes, it's a study. Hopefully, it's a scientific study. Are you too lunkheaded to understand basic scientific method?

Re:What's with the title? (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709186)

What in this report makes you think it is not scientific?

Re:What's with the title? (2, Interesting)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709274)

Only the title. Having read the review of the study (not the 100 page study itself) it seems that the study is a comparison of the various forms of energy production in the U.S. The study shows that natural gas is comparatively the cheapest bridge source for electricity production in terms of both cost (dollars) to produce and cost (in CO2, etc) to the environment. So my question was, why the focus on natural gas at all in the title? It may seem like a small thing, but in terms of presentation to the public it's huge. The title they used reads like an ad for the gas industry. Whereas, they could have chosen an unbiased title to give the study more credibility.

There's lots of natural gas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709026)

I was seriously researching building an electric car. Then I saw an article on the conventional and non-conventional supply of natural gas. There's a hundred year supply. Natural gas can be used to power cars. The main cost is the high pressure tanks required, but those are cheaper and last longer than batteries for electric cars.

We can get off imported oil and not have to make too much sacrifice. I am of course ignoring CO2 induced climate change but the science on that seems to be changing ... (me ducks beneath desk to avoid thrown bricks)

Re:There's lots of natural gas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709074)

Read up on fracking before thinking natural gas is the way to go.

Re:There's lots of natural gas (2, Interesting)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709228)

Switching to natural gas is at best a temporary solution, buying us a few decades or a century at most. Fission can buy us many hundreds or even a few thousands of years. Of the technologies currently available, only solar offers a real long term solution for the bulk of our energy requirements.

Clean Air, Dirty Water (4, Informative)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709040)

Too bad that extracting natural gas usually involves pumping massive quantities of toxic chemicals directly in to the ground.

Thanks to the incredibly corrupt Bush Administration, Fracking isn't even subject to the clean water act. The Halliburton Loophole, named after Dick Chaney's true employer, has allowed entire towns to be polluted beyond repair.

Thousands have been sickened by this polluted water. Pets are losing their hair. People are getting cancer. The water out of some homes' faucets is actually flammable!!

citation needed? [vanityfair.com]

Re:Clean Air, Dirty Water (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709080)

yep this was all in Gasland. http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/613/index.html [pbs.org]

Re:Clean Air, Dirty Water (2, Interesting)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709444)

So you use more natural gas, less oil, producing slightly less carbon, but poison a lot of groundwater. People are forced to import water from places that aren't poisoned, requiring expensive water transport, burning more hydrocarbon fuel negating any possible benefit from switching to natural gas :-/

I guess hydraulic fracturing is the culprit, not natural gas, and the exemption for natural gas from being regulated can be overturned. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing#The_FRAC_Act_of_2009 [wikipedia.org] Let's hope politicians get this one right.

Re:Clean Air, Dirty Water (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709470)

gas companies should definitely be held accountable for the damage they are causing. I don't see that happening any time soon though...

Re:Clean Air, Dirty Water (1)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709734)

Yeah that's another solution. I'm a fan of regulation (sometimes associated with big government and/or socialism). But if these companies and the people involved with the flawed decision-making were really made accountable that would stop the problem too.

Time to get a price on solar panels.

Re:Clean Air, Dirty Water (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709562)

Cats and dogs living together!

Re:Clean Air, Dirty Water (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709794)

Hmm? The well water from my grandparents farm in Michigan in the early 80's was flammable. But as far as I know, it had been like that for at least a century.

Carbon to Hydrogen Ratio (2, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709046)

Natural Gas is mostly Methane. Since methane has the smallest ratio of carbon to hydrogen at 2 carbons, per 6 hydrogens, it is the best hydrocarbon to burn if you are trying to reduce carbon emissions.

Yeah, other sources produce no carbon, but they can't compete with Natural Gas's price.

Re:Carbon to Hydrogen Ratio (1, Redundant)

Convector (897502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709148)

Actually, straight hydrogen gas (H2) has the smallest ratio of carbon to hydrogen at 0 carbons per 2 hydrogens. But it's not as readily available, harder to store and transport. So the next most efficient option, methane, is a more reasonable choice.

Re:Carbon to Hydrogen Ratio (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709290)

It's also not a hydrocarbon nor is it something you can get out of the ground.

Re:Carbon to Hydrogen Ratio (4, Informative)

maeka (518272) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709216)

Natural Gas is mostly Methane. Since methane has the smallest ratio of carbon to hydrogen at 2 carbons, per 6 hydrogens,

Huh? Methane is C1H4. Ethane is C2H6.

Re:Carbon to Hydrogen Ratio (4, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709284)

The price of natural gas is extremely low currently ($4-5/per million BTU) due to the economic recession. If the economy were to pick back up, the price would rise quickly, thereby cancelling out a great deal of the economic benefit:

http://www.bloomberg.com/markets/commodities/energy-prices/ [bloomberg.com]

Re:Carbon to Hydrogen Ratio (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709754)

Your confusing ethane, [wikipedia.org] C2H6, with methane, [wikipedia.org] CH4.

Not good enough (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709054)

Environmentalists demand that you get your power from pixie dust or else!

Who'da thunk it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709092)

Wow, burning methane (CH4) produces less carbon emmisssion than longer chain hydrocarbons, and especially less than coal which is ALL carbon.
I guess nobody ever thought about that before.

But hang on, what if we got our energy from sources that don't have any carbon. Nuclear, Hydro, wind and geothhermal. Or even nuclear fusion. Until we get our own fusion generators going, we can use the one thats 93 million miles away.

There's not one single approach which will work (5, Insightful)

stomv (80392) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709114)

Let's focus only on the 13 of carbon emissions in America which are electricity related:

Coal emits 2.1 lbs CO_2-eq per kWh generated. Oil 1.9, nat gas 1.3. Wind, solar, geothermal 0. If we instantaneously switched all 20 quads of energy from coal used to generate electricity to natural gas *tomorrow*, we'd save roughly 10% of our overall carbon emissions (coal is 1/3 of overall carbon emissions used almost entirely for electricity, and switching to gas saves 1/3 (1.3/2.1 ~= 2/3)). So the 10% is nice, but it's clearly not enough.

We've got to do better than that. Additional ways to do better include:
  * Improving building envelope (air sealing and insulation) has a substantial impact on both heating and cooling load. Interested in the electricity portion -- focus on the southeast and the southwest explicitly. Work to improve the existing building infrastructure with regard to envelope.
  * Strengthen building codes. There's no point in tightening up old buildings if we permit new buildings to be built leaky. This is especially important to do at the Federal level, because (a) most new construction is in the southeast and southwest, not northeast nor midwest, and (b) their Republican governments have shown no interest in passing state laws. Before you go off on a libertarian rant, keep in mind that even if a homeowner was savvy enough to understand the importance of a tight and well insulated home, he would have very little ability to measure/inspect the potential home because seeing through sheetrock is nontrivial. Building inspectors, on the other hand, are looking at the space before finish walls are installed, and therefore have a perfect opportunity to inspect for energy efficiency.
  * Follow California's lead in ratcheting up energy efficiency requirements for appliances and electronics. Sure, they won't get it all right the first time -- that's true of just about all engineering projects -- but the overall impact is substantial. It's not just about saving money for customers, it's also about reducing the demand on the grid and at the power stations.
  * White/green/solar roofs, particularly in urban areas, particularly in those with more sun exposure in warmer climes. This is a simple building/zoning code change, and it has a tangible impact over time.
  * Local renewable. Solar or wind at the home or small commercial level, on site, helps not only reduce demand (from the utility, it appears to be the same thing), but it also reduces the demands on the local grid. This is important because it allows us to hold off on building larger capacity at the local level for as long as possible, a huge savings. Ways to foster this include tax credits, time-variable pricing (solar), and even simply ensuring that net-metering is legal everywhere.
  * Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) have been enacted in roughly 30 states. Essentially, they require utilities to increase the percentage of renewable electricity in the mix of their electrons by a little bit each year or every few years. They define what counts as renewable (typically large hydro is excluded, biofuel may or may not be, wind and solar and geothermal are, some states allow a portion to be met with negawatts (efficiency improvements). The elegance is that the utilities can choose the technologies / facilities which make sense for them to meet the criteria, they can "bank" surplus credits, and if they come up short they pay a financial penalty which is severe enough to make compliance cheaper than punishment.

You'll notice I've entirely avoided mentioning nuclear power. I'm not opposed to it, but I also acknowledge that it's far more expensive for society than the pro-nuke folks let on, and it's far safer than the anti-nuke folks acknowledge. In either case, since it is more expensive than lots of alternatives, let's work on the alternatives and see how far we can push them. If we've legitimately pushed wind and solar and geothermal and efficiency as far as we can and nuclear becomes the cheapest option, let's go for it... though maybe not until then. You'll also notice I've avoided fuel supply/pricing scenarios. Almost as much oil and natural gas are used for heating homes directly as are used to generate electricity -- you improve the building envelope, you cut demand for those fuels used for heating -- and that frees up more natural gas supply (both the CH_4 and the pipelines and tankers to deliver it) for power generation to displace coal.

Bottom line: don't fall for the "do this instead of that" line. We can do multiple things at once, and we should. Let's reduce demand of energy wisely. Let's reduce supply of carbon-heavy fuels like coal and oil. Let's increase supply of carbon-light fuels like direct sun and wind. Natural gas? Instead of cal, good. Instead of wind, bad.

Re:There's not one single approach which will work (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709296)

I'd mod you up to 11, if I could

did you actually read the article? (3, Insightful)

locketine (1101453) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709152)

Your last sentence in the summary is contrary to the main finding of the article in regards to power generation.

"Power Generation

  • Pursue displacement of inefficient coal generation with natural gas combined cycle generation.
  • Develop policy and regulatory measures to facilitate natural gas generation capacity investments concurrent with the introduction of large intermittent renewable generation.

" -the MIT research summary

They are not advocating moving away from renewable energy like wind or solar to natural gas but rather advocating the use of both to replace coal since wind and solar do not produce reliable energy.

No drinking water for New York City (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709168)

Fracking is messing up Northern Pennsylvania right now.

And the dirtbags are trying to start it up in New York State.

Say goodbye to your drinking water!

Fracking is allowed to use *any chemicals they want, with no disclosure* pumped deep into the ground.

Natural gas supply is in decline (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709176)

In North America, conventional natural gas reserves have been in decline for a while, and it's not expected that trend will reverse as unconventional sources (shale gas and coal-bed methane) are brought on stream. There are also legitimate concerns about groundwater contamination in association with shale gas and coal-bed methane projects, although it can be done safely if the work is done properly. Investment in natural gas will continue because it is a good option: it's clean, has less CO2 output per unit energy than other fossil fuels, there is substantial infrastructure built to deliver it, there's a decent reserve already, and even as North American supplies continue to dwindle, there is also quite a bit available world-wide that can be delivered via liquified natural gas terminals at sea ports.

However, supply of natural gas is still going to peak eventually like oil will. It's a temporary solution. So investment in renewable/sustainable energy sources should be the focus, and, no, policy should not shift from that. Natural gas certainly doesn't need any special financial encouragement because it's already an economically profitable option.

Magnetohydrodynamic generators (3, Insightful)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709190)

Using a cleaner burning fuel like natural gas would allow for generating facilities that capitalize on both the MHD effect and then the follow-on of traditionally 'boiling water to make steam" to drive a turbine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetohydrodynamic_generator [wikipedia.org]

By adding an MHD system to a conventional plant, energy efficiency can be increased by 50% over a conventional facility. As we do more work with near-room temperature superconductors the efficiency would increase.

Re:Magnetohydrodynamic generators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709644)

In the case of natural gas it wouldn't necessarily be as much of an efficiency gain as you might think, because many natural gas->electric systems have a dual energy recovery system that is already fairly efficient. They use the natural gas in what is essentially a modified jet engine [wikipedia.org] , and the shaft of the engine drives the generator directly. Then the waste gas from the gas turbine can be used to do the "boiling water to make steam" routine to recover even more energy. How this compares to MHD, I'm not exactly sure, but the natural gas combined cycle [wikipedia.org] systems already get 50 to 60% thermal efficiency, which is quite good compared to traditional thermal plants. Even the plain gas turbine systems (without the steam generation from the exhaust) are quite efficient.

Honey... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709312)

I'm saving the environment. And so is the dog. So there, please quit complaining, honey.

Well, yeah, the gas industry funded it! (5, Interesting)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709596)

This is ridiculous. Look at the report and every step of the way it's unabashedly pro-gas as being the next wonderful thing. It doesn't stop to consider that gas prices are highly volatile, that most gas is now imported from Canada and glosses over the difficulties inherent to "unconventional sources" of gas.

it makes the claim that natural gas is perfect for making renewable energy feasible. At best, that's an oversimplification. At worst, it's a way of getting gas generation without anyone objecting to the economic issues, supply problems (which it makes seem non-existent) or other issues.

It completely ignores nuclear energy, writing it off as "too expensive" with little or no actual accounting for the real costs of both building and operating nuclear plants. It presumes the cost of nuclear energy will remain the same, never going into the fact that new reactor technology is being developed. Yet, at the same time, it grants natural gas the benefit of the possibility of improved technology. It never considers the cost breakdown of nuclear and the fact that regulatory changes can dramatically impact the overall cost.

It proposes increased CNG use while ignoring the energy density and transportation issues.

You would think, based on this, that natural gas is the be-all, end-all of fuels and is damn near perfect in every way. While it is lower carbon than coal, and slightly lower than oil, this is absolutely not the case. Effectively, this focuses on only the best aspects of gas and only the worst of nuclear and every other energy source. it uses the best case for gas and worst case for all others


Now, this should not surprise anyone: the major funding for this came almost entirely from the gas industry, who has recently been using heavy PR to cultivate a much "greener" image than it really is entitled to. The major funding and supporting agency is "The American Clean Skies Foundation." This foundation is funded almost exclusively by Chesapeake Energy corporation - one of the largest natural gas producers in the US. YES, THAT'S RIGHT - THIS WAS BOUGHT AND PAID FOR BY A GAS COMPANY

CNG and India (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709782)

All taxicabs in the main cities in India run on Compressed Natural Gas. So do the public transport buses in many cities. It takes 800$ to convert a regular petrol burning to car to run on either petrol or CNG. Some individual owned cars all have also been converted. CNG prices are around 60% of petrol prices in India, so it takes a year or two (depending on how much you drive) to break even on your 800$ conversion cost.

The transistion to nat gas should be smooth but... (3, Insightful)

blindseer (891256) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709796)

In college I took a tour of a couple power plants as part of my courses. One of the power plants had this tower of a boiler where the coal dust was blown in the bottom and the soot was tossed out the top. The tour guide pointed out that the boilers had to be pre-heated with natural gas before the boiler could switch over to coal dust as fuel. Another power plant I toured had a more conventional, and less efficient, boiler that also used natural gas to get the fires going. It took me a split second to realize that these boilers could just as easily run on natural gas all the time if they chose to do so.

Not part of my tours but I have read about how some diesel powered generators have been converted to using natural gas or propane as fuel by injecting the gaseous fuels into the combustion cylinder much like how a conventional gasoline engine does. The ignition of the fuel still requires a small amount of diesel fuel to be injected into the cylinder. With this conversion just about any diesel cycle engine can use just about any ratio of diesel fuel to gaseous fuel to run.

Power plants have for the longest time have been flexible in what fuel they use. They will burn what ever is cheapest or whatever is available. One of those power plants I toured still had it's old wood burning boiler as a last resort backup. I would guess they figured it would cost money to dismantle and remove the thing and as long as they had no need for the room in the plant it did no harm in keeping it there. Oh, that boiler could burn coal just as easily as wood. It could probably also burn straw, corn, soybeans, discarded plastic, old tennis shoes, grass clippings, dispatched zombies, or whatever else you could think of. As long as the fuel met certain minimum conditions then it should work as fuel. Might have to mix the fuels a bit to achieve a proper burn but the boiler shouldn't care if you put the old tennis shoes in with the zombies.

The reason these power plants have not already switched to natural gas should be obvious, it's cheaper. Not only that but with the threat of "cap and tax" hanging over their heads few will switch to natural gas even if it is cheaper. They need the history of being "dirty" so that if a cap on CO2 emissions is placed upon them the reduction of CO2 output can be done as easily, and cheaply, as throwing a switch over to natural gas.

Then there is the issue of how to get the natural gas. Natural gas tends to be in the same places as the oil. If we can't drill for oil then we can't drill for natural gas. If we burn the natural gas for fuel what are we to do with all that oil? Obviously we'd burn that too. If the government imposes a "cap and tax" scheme on industrial scale uses of coal and oil the price of natural gas will climb to adjust for supply and demand. That will make coal and oil cheaper for the smaller scale uses.

I've been telling people that if "cap and tax" passes into law then I'm buying a coal fired furnace for my home.

When it comes to CO2 output per kilowatt hour produced nuclear power is second only to hydroelectric. We've dammed up all the rivers we can. Wind power requires the use of carbon heavy materials like plastics and aluminum. (The aluminum does not contain the carbon but the carbon is used to reduce the aluminum ore to pure aluminum releasing massive amounts of CO2 into the air. Also there is much heat and electricity required typically meaning burning large amounts of fossil fuels in the process.)

The only real option available to reduce our carbon footprint, and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, is nuclear power. The problem is politics are killing both nuclear power and domestic fossil fuels. The politicians want so hard to please everyone in the country but something has to give or we are going to find ourselves capped and taxed out of an economy. I find evidence in human caused global warming unconvincing so I really don't care if the powers that be permit more drilling or more nuclear power plants. In fact I'd rather see both more drilling and more nuclear power, no reason (outside of politics) that we can't do both. It's just that nuclear power has the advantage of being both domestic sourced and low(er) carbon output.

Even if we move toward nuclear power as our primary source of energy there will still be a need for other sources like wind and natural gas. Those other sources would provide peak power, which nuclear power is poor at providing, and competition to keep prices low.

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