Amber Schrum: Natural Gas or Renewable Energy?

Andrew Raingold, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “This investment would be better made in real zero-carbon technologies that would provide more effective long-term options for decarbonizing electricity” (Broderick et al., 2011, p. 119). Most low- carbon technologies have their costs fall substantially once they are installed and operational, compared to natural gas which will be vulnerable to market volatility (Hickman, 2013). “Any money and investment that is going to gas is money that is not going to renewables,” said Brook Riley, a staff person for Friends of the Earth, an environmental group. Gordon Edge, the director of policy for Renewable UK, said “We must be careful not to lock ourselves into dependence on a finite fuel which, while it is less carbon intensive than coal, is nevertheless much more carbon intensive than any renewable” (Harvey, 2011).
The International Energy Agency said that if nothing is done before 2020, changing emissions will be difficult because of the quantity of carbon in the atmosphere and the established energy infrastructure. As the energy industry is responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, it must spearhead change toward lower emission levels (Mufson, 2013). Green advocates believe that natural gas investment will crowd out investment in renewable energy until major overhauls in infrastructure are needed once again (Harvey, 2011). The infrastructure investment required to exploit natural gas puts the world in danger of a dependency on natural gas (Broderick et al., 2011, p. 119).
If climate policy remains unchanged in the U.S. and measures to control emissions remain weak, natural gas will lower gas and electricity prices while total energy use will be higher in 2050. These lower prices will stimulate economic growth, increasing total emissions by 13 percent as growth of renewable energy is slowed and development of CCS technology will be delayed. Natural gas “is so attractive that it threatens other energy sources we ultimately will need,” according to Henry Jacoby, an economist from MIT. “We’ve got to keep our eye on the long term” (Inman, 2012).
James Bradbury, a policy analyst from the World Resources Institute, said “Given current U.S. policies, abundant and relatively cheap natural gas puts all other energy sources at a competitive disadvantage. It is particularly important for decision-makers to...usher in more renewable energy by creating incentives to help this industry thrive.” Policies would need to promote innovation and investment in electric grids (Inman, 2012).
In my opinion, more regulation is needed at the federal level to standardize industry operations, what equipment is used, what site remediation is required, and what testing is required before and after drilling. Natural gas should not be relied on heavily, so that an immediate investment in renewable energy sources can be made. Energy policy must be long-term, because even when carbon dioxide emissions are lowered, current levels will remain in the atmosphere causing warming effects until these emissions degrade. We must be proactive instead of reactive in these regards.