With the Massachusetts legislature preparing to take up comprehensive energy legislation, Wall Street-controlled energy companies are pushing hard to include a pipeline tax, allowing them to charge all ratepayers a fee to build new & expanded fracked gas pipelines. Here are 11 reasons why that’s a bad idea:
- Solar and wind energy are cost-competitive with coal and fracked gas – not some day in the future, but right now. Why would we invest billions of dollars in new fracked gas infrastructure like pipelines and storage when it’s already being surpassed? It would be like spending billions on building new phone landlines after the iPhone had already come out.
- A study commissioned by Attorney General Maura Healey confirms new gas pipelines aren’t needed, concluding a combination of energy efficiency and clean energy over existing power lines could deliver a net savings and massive cuts to carbon pollution.
- Even those hippie liberal treehuggers at ISO New England see flat load growth through 2024, assuming legislators don’t continue strangling solar growth. The regions with greatest need for new generation? Eastern MA and RI, areas with massive offshore wind energy potential. RI has already started tapping its reserves with the Block Island wind farm, but MA has stayed on the sidelines. Considering MA has 6 gigawatts of offshore wind potential, the energy bill should direct MA utilities to develop at least 2 gigawatts of offshore wind.
- Wholesale electricity prices just fell to their 2nd-lowest level in the last 12 years. Electricity prices are of course prone to year-to-year variation, but the drop doesn’t back up the case that electricity prices are a crisis that requires billions of dollars in new infrastructure.
- Massachusetts electric utilities have been ordered to give up to $106 million back to ratepayers for claiming too much of a profit on transmission line construction. Now we’re supposed to believe new pipelines are strictly about need, and not about getting another chance to overcharge us for building new, unnecessary infrastructure?
- Kinder Morgan is suing Massachusetts demanding it be allowed to cut down trees on state conservation land to build its Connecticut expansion project. Why would we do any favors for these vulture capitalists?
- Major ruptures, spills and explosions on fossil fuel pipelines are tragically common and smaller-scale leaks are wipespread and costly.
- No one’s saying we should stop using fracked gas tomorrow. But today New England is getting half of its electricity from gas and 80% of it from just two sources, gas & nuclear. Does gas really need more help from state mandates? Is it too much to ask it to stand on its own two feet?
- New gas pipelines incentivize fracking, which pollutes drinking water and causes earthquakes. Just because that damage takes place in far-off places doesn’t mean we can sweep our responsibility for it under the rug.
- To slow – not stop, not reverse, but just to slow the rapidly accelerating increase of global warming – we must say no to new fossil fuel infrastructure. That means stopping coal export terminals in the West, stopping new tar sands oil pipelines like Keystone XL in the Plains, and rejecting new fracked gas infrastructure right here in Massachusetts.
- The more scientists learn about fracking for gas and its impact on global warming, the more it looks just as climate-cooking as coal:
Because here’s the unhappy fact about methane: Though it produces only half as much carbon as coal when you burn it, if you don’t — if it escapes into the air before it can be captured in a pipeline, or anywhere else along its route to a power plant or your stove — then it traps heat in the atmosphere much more efficiently than CO2. Howarth and Ingraffea began producing a series of papers claiming that if even a small percentage of the methane leaked — maybe as little as 3 percent — then fracked gas would do more climate damage than coal. And their preliminary data showed that leak rates could be at least that high: that somewhere between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of methane gas from shale-drilling operations actually escapes into the atmosphere. [...]
If you combine Howarth’s estimates of leakage rates and the new standard values for the heat-trapping potential of methane, then the picture of America’s total greenhouse-gas emissions over the last 15 years looks very different: Instead of peaking in 2007 and then trending downward, as the EPA has maintained, our combined emissions of methane and carbon dioxide have gone steadily and sharply up during the Obama years, Howarth says. We closed coal plants and opened methane leaks, and the result is that things have gotten worse.
I’m sure there are many more and you’re welcome to add what I missed in the comments.
Look, I understand why including nothing for natural gas in this energy bill is hard to swallow for legislators. It’s counter to the usual horse-trading process where lobbyists for one side asks for a loaf, the other side asks legislators to give nothing, they settle at half a loaf, and everyone goes to 21st Amendment for drinks after.
Giving polluters some of what they want also appeals to legislators who prefer to avoid lines in the sand. Can’t we approve just this one more dirty energy project?
But when it comes to confronting global warming, we’re literally decades past the bargaining point. James Hansen warned Congress that our climate was already changing in 1988 – 28 years ago. Temperatures are rising even faster than predicted and as today’s Providence Journal editorializes, sea level rise forecasts are getting scarier.
“Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies,” says the University of California-Irvine’s Steven Davis. “If you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether.”
Please take a moment right now to ask Gov. Charlie Baker to support clean energy solutions.