The National Journal’s Energy and Environment Experts blog asked the question, “Should We Start Swapping Coal For Natural Gas?” in reference to the Kerry-Boxer bill. You can read Dave Parker’s response below and follow this link to see what the other experts had to say.
AGA’s position with respect to natural gas versus coal for electricity generation is: we need natural gas and coal for that purpose, just as we need to aggressively develop all of our other energy resources—nuclear, wind, solar and hydro, along with technologies that will maximize the utilization and efficiencies of each fuel. After all, demand for electricity will continue to grow, so our optimum energy strategy—both from a domestic-security and infrastructure-capability standpoint—is a flexible, diverse and regionally appropriate blend of electricity generation, in which natural gas plays a role, but so does every other fuel source.
Certainly, in a carbon-constrained world, natural gas, which is by far the cleanest and most efficient of the fossil fuels, can make a significant contribution to electricity generation, especially since new natural gas resource estimates indicate we have about 100 years of domestic supply. Thus, replacing the least efficient coal-fired generators with new natural gas plants would be a clear, and cleaner, step forward.
That said, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the most beneficial use of this premier fuel is directly in the home and business, or in other end-use applications such as natural gas vehicles. Natural gas from the wellhead to the burner tip in homes and businesses loses only about 10 percent of its useable energy. Converting natural gas into electricity to power comparable electric end-use product in the home or business results in the loss of about 65 percent of its useable energy, and results in increased greenhouse gas emissions. That is why diverting from its direct-use applications the significant volume of natural gas needed to replace the generating capacity of 8-10 coal plants every year is a less than ideal scenario.
We all understand that natural gas is a key piece to solving the energy and climate change puzzle. But increased fuel diversity would allow more natural gas to be used directly in the residential and commercial market, where, for more than 40 years, natural gas customers have led the way in increasing energy efficiency, conservation and greenhouse gas reductions.