The Connecticut Chapter Sierra Club will present a Gas Pipeline Educational Forum on Tuesday, June 8, at 6:30 p.m., at the Bridgeport Public Library, Bridgeport. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 860-236-4405, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a great deal of construction of natural gas pipelines in the state. That’s surprising when we’ve heard about the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The U.S. Surgeon General released a study in April of this year which concludes that “climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people.”
Natural gas, which is 97% methane, was supposed to be a “bridge fuel” to a better future, but those claims now sound like marketing hype. First, the majority of gas coming through the lines today is fracked in Pennsylvania and states to our west, so increased use of gas equals more fracking and more fracking waste. Second, methane is approximately 100 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere in its first ten years of release. That means that although methane is only the second most common greenhouse gas, with carbon dioxide being the most common, it is much more injurious to the climate in the short term. According to Cornell University Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology Robert Howarth, “We have to control methane immediately, and natural gas is the largest methane pollution source in the United States. If we hit a climate-system tipping point because of methane, our carbon dioxide problem is immaterial. We have to get a handle on methane or increasingly risk global catastrophe.”
Until recently, there was no evidence that methane emissions were increasing in the atmosphere, and the EPA underestimated the amount of methane being released as well as its global warming potential. But in March, a Harvard study was published entitled “A large increase in U.S. methane emissions over past decade inferred from satellite data and surface observations”. The researchers concluded that “U.S. methane emissions have increased by more than 30% over the 2002-2014 period…This large increase in U.S. methane emissions could account for 30-60% of the global growth of atmospheric methane seen in the last decade.” Subsequent to the release of this study, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that methane emissions are “substantially higher than we’ve understood.”
So, why is Connecticut building miles of brand new gas pipeline, new gas power plants, gas infusion stations, and gas powered fuel cells? The state Comprehensive Energy Strategy, drafted in 2013, calls for an increase in the use of natural gas as a way to save money. But after the price of oil dropped, for the same reason that natural gas prices dropped (fracking), there was no economic benefit to the customer in making the conversion. Of significant concern now is the fact that Eversource and UI are converting hundreds of thousands of new customers to gas, and using ratepayer funded subsidies to do so. That means the public is helping to pay for a whole scale switch to an equally, if not more, climate damaging fuel which is not cheaper. That makes no sense at all.
What would make sense for Connecticut? We could power all our electricity with solar and wind, and heat and cool our homes with high efficiency electric air-source pumps. This is not some pie in the sky dream: this is real technology, available today at a cost that is competitive with fossil fuels. Cities in the U.S. are already powered by 100% renewable energy, including here in New England. As Bill McKibben, the writer and environmentalist says, “fossil fuels are the problem in global warming- and fossil fuels don’t come in good and bad flavors. Coal and oil and natural gas have to be left in the ground. All of them.”
Martha Klein, Connecticut Chapter Sierra Club