Study: Natural Gas Can Lower Emissions While Providing Stable Power

A new report released today by Northwood University’s McNair Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in Midland and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy concludes that flawed energy policies are harming the nation’s ability to meet every day needs.
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A Northwood University report suggests that natural gas is key to providing stable energy to the U.S. population. // Stock Photo

A new report released today by Northwood University’s McNair Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in Midland and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy concludes that flawed energy policies are harming the nation’s ability to meet every day needs.

The study, “The Truth About Natural Gas: A Wellspring for the U.S. and Global Energy Future,” focuses on the value of fuels like natural gas to maintain and improve human health and welfare.

The study’s authors — Timothy G. Nash, Jason Hayes, Dale Matcheck, Joshua Antonini, and Andrew Reder — find that natural gas is a bountiful source for America and the world’s future.

“A secure supply of affordable, reliable energy is essential to America and the global economy,” says Nash.

Hayes adds, “If state, local and federal officials ignore the benefits of natural gas, America’s standard of living will decline, global economic and political freedom will be harmed, and environmental impacts associated with energy development will expand in the decades to come.”

The study looks at Europe, where green policies aimed at reducing domestic natural gas production have helped create an energy crisis that is hobbling the continent’s industrial and manufacturing capacity. The European Union is dependent on Russian natural gas exports, and several European nations are considering reopening coal plants to keep from freezing this winter.

America’s loss of energy independence is less severe, but it is still hitting Americans in their wallets. At around $3.80 per gallon, gas prices are about 60 percent above the price when President Joe Biden took office.

Distillate inventories — diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil — are at their lowest levels since 2008. The Department of Energy reports that tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the fossil fuel industry. The study’s authors found that across the nation, utilities are transforming our electric grid into a fragile, weather-dependent house of cards.

“In Michigan, for example, utilities just closed a nuclear plant nine years before its operating license expired, even though the plant produced more reliable and emissions-free electricity than all of the state’s wind and solar facilities combined,” says Nash, vice president emeritus and director of the McNair Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Northwood University.

Texas and California have experienced significant blackouts in the recent past. But they’re not alone. The entire North American grid is threatened by flawed energy policies.

“We may someday fully power our lives with intermittent gusts of wind and errant sunbeams, but that day is not today,” says Hayes.

The authors write that our misplaced trust in wind and solar often leaves entire states or regions lacking during extended “wind droughts” or seasonal cloudy conditions. During the times that wind and solar produce nothing, we require the dense and reliable power derived from fossil fuels to keep the lights on. Without it, we would struggle to provide basic products and services.

The study also found that the increased use of gas has reduced the overall cost of energy and increased energy reliability, both of which led to direct improvements in human health and well-being.

For example, as increasingly strict government regulation has targeted the use of coal for electricity generation, low-cost natural gas — a result of the shale revolution — has been available to pick up much of that lost energy production capacity.

That fuel-switching from older coal plants to newer natural gas generation is a key reason that American greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 were 21 percent below 2005 levels. Improved generation technologies are also why the country has been able to decrease combined emissions of six criteria air pollutants by 78 percent from 1970 to 2021.

“The North American oil and gas industry is far more efficient than many of its international competitors,” says Nash. “Russian natural gas production emits 30 percent more methane per unit of energy than American producers, according to the International Energy Agency’s global methane tracker.

“Despite that demonstrated efficiency, American oil and gas producers have publicly committed to even further emissions reductions. When considering environmental outcomes, it makes sense to focus production in areas where it is done more cleanly and efficiently.”’

Timothy Nash will be the keynote speaker at DBusiness’ 2023 Economic Forecast Breakfast Series event on Dec. 7 at the Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business in Detroit. To purchase tickets, click here.

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