What's so bad about a pipeline?
Get that question often, do you? So do we. Here are some quick answers to the common questions those not in the know have about this pipeline project.
We got gas…
Q: Yay! Right? Isn’t natural gas sort of clean? Isn’t it a cheap global warming fix?
A: Maybe in an ideal world. But here on earth, researchers at Cornell University, the National Academy of Sciences and others have warned, extracting natural gas by hydraulic fracking might be larding the atmosphere anew with greenhouse fumes.
The rub is that although natural gas emits up to 60 percent less CO2 than coal when combusted in new, efficient power plants, it mainly consists of methane. And methane is a natural planet cooker.
Odorless, colorless methane traps solar rays 34 times more efficiently than CO2 over a 100-year span.. Over 20 years it’s 86 times more efficient.
No one knows – or is telling – exactly how much methane is escaping into the atmosphere from drill rigs, pipelines and power plants. Much of the leakage is thought to come from inactive well pads. Society has yet to prioritize quantifying or capping so-called “fugitive” methane.
Meanwhile, the leaks presumably multiply along with new wells and lines.
Everything has an environmental footprint, including bolting together wind turbines and converting silica sand to solar panels.
But ecological impacts and cheapness might be relative things…
Q: There’s already tons of pipelines out there. Why worry about a few new ones?
A: The United States has about 2.5 million miles of energy pipeline, the most in the world. But the surging oil and gas industry is planning more than a couple of additions. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America projects 24,000 miles of new pipe through 2035 [Source, Daily Beast, citing the Oil and Gas Journal].
Some of the proposed gas lines, like Pennsylvania’s Atlantic Sunrise, at 42 inches in diameter, are bigger than traditional conduits -- and their higher transmission volume conceivably poses more threat from explosion.
Also, the lines are being constructed to transport gas recovered by high-pressure hydraulic fracking wells. They bore deeper into the rock than conventional wells. They’re controversial. New York has banned the technology, citing a broad spectrum of concerns about its impact on climate, air, drinking water, surface spills, earthquake and fissure generation, and community disruption.
[Source, Inside Climate News]
Q: You consume natural gas in your house. You drive a gasoline-powered car. Isn’t it hypocritical to oppose new oil and gas pipelines?
A: No. For one thing, the natural gas that flows into my house used to come from conventionally drilled gas wells, which did not pose the same risks as fracking.
For another, by and large, government and corporate power brokers shape society and impose energy choices in ways difficult for individuals to resist. (Remember “Who Killed the Electric Car?”)
For example, I’d like my electricity to come from a neighborhood microgrid cooperative powered by wind and solar -- sans energy-gobbling long-distance transmission lines. But we’re a long way from that.
Q. Williams Partners spokesman Chris Stockton says: "U.S. carbon emissions are down to their lowest levels since 1988, thanks to the resurgence of natural gas." We should feel grateful, no?
A. No. The country's carbon output has indeed fallen. CO2 levels sank 878 metric tons, or about 12 percent, 2005-2012. That's great. But the emissions drops occurred throughout the U.S. energy economy. They didn't come just from replacing coal with natural gas. In fact, reports independent energy researcher Lindsay Wilson, that transition accounted for only 35 to 40 percent of the cuts.
Credit many of the improvements to increased wind power, better fuel economy in cars and trucks, and reduced travel. Also playing a role during the period, Wilson says, was mild winter weather and a recession-sparked decline in energy demand.
Wilson, crunching U.S. Energy Information Administration figures in his shrinkthatfootprint.com website, notes that industrial carbon emissions epecially are forecast to rise.
Meanwhile, Washington races madly to prop up all fossil fuels, whatever the environmental or social costs. Natural gas can't help but be a huge part of THAT picture.
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