There has been a lot of discussion around decarbonizing the economy, some calling for the end of all fossil fuel use and instead relying solely on renewable energy sources. However, America’s economy needs abundant, affordable energy to thrive, and as such, all fuel sources should be in the mix. Visible market forces, such as the investment community and large users of natural gas, require its sourcing in a sustainable manner. Market forces, complemented by appropriate environmental standards, should determine how America’s energy needs are met. Wind, solar and other renewable sources are nowhere near advanced enough to provide all of America’s energy needs.
When the government tries to mandate policies that are of a one-size-fits-all nature, the results seem to always have unintended consequences. For example, the Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978 prevented the construction of natural gas electric power plants because the industry was “running out of natural gas,” yet the U.S. was not even close to that. Look at how market forces and innovation have transformed the natural gas industry; the industry has sparked a revolution whereby the U.S. is on the cusp of long-awaited energy independence and has achieved energy dominance as the world’s leading producer of natural gas.
While striving for a zero-carbon economy may sound good, trying to phase out and eliminate the use of natural gas doesn’t. Natural gas has been responsible for the American energy resurgence, while at the same time reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methane emissions from the energy sector decreased 14% from 1990 to 2016, while natural gas output increased by more than 50% during the same period.
The ONE Future Coalition is a group of natural gas companies that have come together to collectively lower methane emissions. The coalition believes that science should drive policy and that science demonstrates methane has an impact on greenhouse gas. To reduce that impact, ONE Future believes in utilizing a market and performance-based approach to achieve reduction objectives as opposed to a top-down command and control approach. Coalition members are confident that by setting a goal and letting companies decide how to deploy capital and resources in the most cost-effective and efficient ways, the results show that the goal can be reached and even exceeded.
ONE Future takes a value chain approach to reduce methane. Its members represent all sectors of the natural gas value chain, and in 2014 it established a goal of reducing methane intensity to 1% by 2025. In November 2018, the coalition issued its first report showing that it had exceeded the goal, achieving a methane intensity level of 0.552% in 2017. The 2018 numbers released last month revealed that the coalition’s methane intensity was recorded at 0.333% showing improvement from the previous year with each segment realizing decreases by varying magnitudes. Methane intensity, broadly speaking, is calculated by dividing total methane emissions by production or throughput. The U.S.’s overall throughput of natural gas increased in 2018, yet methane intensity decreased by 41%, demonstrating that the natural gas industry can supply much-needed power to the country and around the globe in an environmentally friendly manner.
This reduction in methane illustrates that a performance-based approach works. It also indicates that reducing methane intensity in the natural gas industry is achievable using today’s technology.
Achieving zero carbon emissions requires killing multiple industries, eliminating millions of jobs, devastating a flourishing American economy and ultimately changing our way of life. There is a better way; ONE Future and other like-minded groups are working to ensure that natural gas achieves long-term sustainability and competitiveness in a low carbon economy, which will allow for continued economic growth while preserving America’s leadership in energy production and reduction of emissions.