Just to amplify another experienced, reality-based voice calling out the Boston Globe for its series (!) of pro-pipeline editorials. This time it’s former Department of Public Utilities chair Ann Berwick — but stop me if you’ve heard this before!
An even more worrisome aspect of the Globe’s stance on the use of coal and oil on especially frigid winter days is the message that natural gas is a clean fuel. That is the unrelenting drumbeat of the fossil fuel industry, and it is disturbing to watch the Globe amplify it.
Natural gas is not a clean fuel. It’s true that burning natural gas produces much less carbon dioxide—the main planet-warming greenhouse gas—than burning coal or oil. Using natural gas instead of coal or oil also reduces some pollutants, like particulates and sulfur. But that’s only part of the picture.
Natural gas leaks into the air at all stages of its extraction and distribution, and natural gas is methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. There are no satisfying assessments of the “life cycle” warming impact of methane versus coal or oil and, given that, it is not at all clear from a climate perspective that natural gas is much cleaner than other fossil fuels.
Loyal patrons of our humble online banana stand should be able to recite that last paragraph in their sleep.
Berwick goes on to consider the idea that more natural gas might be needed during particular cold snaps, but that LNG ought to supply that on an as-needed basis — no permanent infrastructure necessary. On the other hand, permanent infrastructure will encourage usage. I think this is common sense. And she endorses the strategy of Electrify Everything — in which converting from oil heat to gas is, at best, a sideways move in terms of cleaning/greening our fuel supply.
But you know this. I’m just pleased to see it so clearly and concisely re-stated, by someone much smarter than me.