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Natural Gas the Clean Alternative

December 9, 2011

It has been common knowledge for quite sometime now that natural gas is a suitable clean alternative to all fossil fuels. Natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its reserves are abundant. Sure, it’s not on par with renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind. But let’s get real; solar, wind, biomass, geothermal lack the installed base to make a difference.

A quick review of the supply source and demand sector data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) given below shows that:

  • Coal is the primary supply source for Electric Power Generation, the largest energy demand sector
  • Petroleum is the primary supply source for the Transportation industry, the second largest demand sector.
  • The 8% contribution of renewable energy to U.S. energy pathway is primarily from biomass (50%) and conventional hydroelectric power (35%). Not including these sources, solar and wind makeup only 0.8% of the entire energy supply for the U.S. economy; see EIA Renewable Energy Consumption and Electricity Preliminary Statistics 2009.

OK, the U.S. and for that matter most developed countries of the word are fossil fuel based economies. Will renewables ever make an impact on the economy? As far back as the mid 90’s, some of us thought they would. But due to the high capital cost, poor reliability, site specificity, intensive real estate requirements, and the need for local, state and federal incentives, renewables are creeping forward at such a small pace society needs an interim alternative to alternative energy.

In such a scenario, natural gas comes to the rescue and serves as the clean energy bridge to the future. Shale gas the new source of today’s natural gas, which has contributed to an increase in domestic reserves, has had a deep impact on the U.S. economy. A report from IHS Global Insight points out that shale gas created jobs, reduced consumer costs for natural gas and electricity and increased local, state and federal tax revenues. Furthermore, natural gas requires no innovation to burn in an electric power generation station or combust in any internal combustion energy on the road. And finally, natural gas is cheaper. If this is not what is needed to bolster our economy, then someone better come forth ASAP with a more viable solution.

Although, environmentalists will argue that natural gas is a limited fossil fuel, it seems like the industry is Robbing Peter to Pay Paul! On face value this appears to be true, but as we wait to realize the benefits of clean energy, society is burning lots of coal and petroleum, while exporting dollars to feed our thrust for harmful fossil fuels. For the foreseeable future, burn we must!

The following chart clearly shows that natural gas is a much cleaner source of energy than other more ‘conventional’ fossil fuels.

The only conundrum is the slow rate of adoption of compressed or liquefied natural gas vehicles (CNG and LNG) in the transportation industry. Here too, natural gas is cheaper than fossil fuels, the cost of conversion is significantly less than Electric Vehicles (EV), and does not have the range anxiety of EVs. NGV America reports that there are about 112,000 NGVs on U.S. roads today and more than 13 million worldwide. Considering the fact that there are about 255 million registered vehicles in the U.S. the number of CNG and LNG vehicles are pitiful.

In closing, either go natural gas today or live with an ever-increasing environmental and economic threat from coal and petroleum. As of now, seeing our economy run by a large percent of truly clean and renewable fuels is unfortunately a distant dream.

Barry Stevens, PhD, is the Managing Director of TBD America, Inc.


19 Comments leave one →
  1. pdgdevelopment permalink
    December 11, 2011 12:25 PM


    Great synopsis. It just begs the question, what is taking US so long to pull the trigger on CNG and LNG for fleet and over the road vehicles? Follow the money; there is obviously some heavy capital that enjoys the status quo.

    While we purchase oil and diesel fuels from “trading partners” that don’t particularly appreciate our democratic philosophies; we are exporting vast proportions of our monetary supply only to have it return to US in the form of rising national debt.

    The ONLY real immediate solution is to utilize OUR own domestic resources, put our people back to work ASAP and to recirculate greater proportions of monetary supply domesticlly.

    While we do that, we are buying time to become more innovative and to develop viable infrastructure for renewable sources of clean energy. Nat Gas is the steppingstone to other alternatives.

    Jim McPartlan

  2. shelley cartier permalink
    December 11, 2011 1:05 PM

    You conveniently left out the process by which the gas is collected called hydrolic fracturing or “fracking”. The excessive amounts of water needed ( in an era of massive drought) and the chemicals involved (that pollute people’s drinking water with cancer-causing agents) effectively makes your claim that natural gas is clean, completely false. Natural gas has a dirty little secret that you, and all of it’s proponents, have failed to point out.

  3. December 11, 2011 2:44 PM

    There is perception but little supporting data suggesting fracking, if “DONE CORRECTLY” is destroying water supplies.

    You may be enlightened by MIT’s report, “The Future of Natural Gas: An Interdisciplinary MIT Study.”

    The study — managed by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and carried out by a team of Institute faculty, staff and graduate students — examined the scale of U.S. natural gas resources and the potential of this fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Based on the work of the multidisciplinary team, with advice from a board of 18 leaders from industry, government and environmental groups, the report examines the future of natural gas through 2050 from the perspectives of technology, economics, politics, national security and the environment.

    The report tackled the concerns that have been raised about the possible environmental effects of developing shale gas using a controversial process called “fracking” (for hydro-fracturing), which involves injecting fluids into deep horizontal wells under pressure. The ultimate disposal of those fluids after they are pumped back out, and the possibility that they could contaminate water supplies, have been the subject of lawsuits and legislative attempts to limit the practice. The study found that “the environmental impacts of shale development are challenging but manageable,” and that some cases of the gas entering freshwater tables were “most likely the result of substandard well-completion practices by a few operators.”

  4. shelley cartier permalink
    December 11, 2011 2:53 PM

    I’m already enlightened and as such, I’m not buying what you are selling. The simple fact that you didn’t include both sides of the argument in your initial post demonstrates the fact that you are biased.

    Famous last words: “the environmental impacts of shale development are challenging but manageable”.

  5. December 12, 2011 7:20 AM

    Hi Shelly,

    I’m hardly biased; on the contrary I’m biased on the renewable side.

    You need to read my bio and take a few minutes to read some of my +150 blog discussion, which have been scathing towards fossil fuels (even natural gas) and Americas’ lack of a true energy policy.

    This is a partial list of some of my discussions that can be found on my blog.
    • 15,000 + 100,000 = U.S. Department of Energy. (2.27.2011)
    • A Call to Action! (09.07.2011)
    • A Convenient Truth. Sad Day for America. (12.17.2009)
    • A Dummy’s Guide on RPS, RECs and ACP! (06.11.2011)
    • A House Built of Me’s Rather than We’s Cannot Stand! (09.08.2011)
    • A House Divided – Toil, Oil and In Trouble. (03.31.2010)
    • A Short List Of Un-American Lawmakers on Capitol Hill! (09.11.2011)
    • America, Do We Have a Problem? (11.06.2009)
    • America Where Are You – From Birth Rates to the Space Race? (07.15.2011)
    • America’s Energy Policy – Tap Congressional Heat! (04.14.2011)
    • An Economist View – Fossil Fuels Pose Major Threats to the U.S. Economy. (07.07.2011)
    • Animals Know Best – Climate Change and Global Warming! (08.24.2011)
    • ARRA Section 1603 – One, Two, Three …… Nine You’re Out? (08.20.2011)
    • Bastardization of Language and Star Trek Episode “The Omega Glory.” (12.23.2010)
    • Can Capitol Hill Finally Pass a Renewable Energy Test? (08.15.2011)
    • Can Renewables Survive in the U.S.? (10.20.2011)
    • Chilling Highs Beneath Texas Hot Skies! (09.13.2011)
    • China Will Do It – Why Is the World Against Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactors? (04.25.2011)
    • China: Mercantilistically Astute but Socially Impaired – Energy Policy, Pressure and Cooperation in the 21st Century. (08.09.2011)
    • Climate Change – Fact of Fiction. Climate Change. (12.21.2009)
    • Climate Change and Global Warming Uncovered Myth? (06.30.2011)
    • Climate Chaos! (11.02.2011)
    • Climate UnControl Bill – U.S. Government and the Tower of Babel. (07.27.2010)
    • Compressed Natural Gas as an Alternative Fuel for Vehicles Fleets Makes Sense: Low Cost. Creates Untapped Demand that U.S. Suppliers Can Fill Today. (06.07.2009)
    • The Department of Energy (DoE) Exposed. (04.05.2011)
    • Desertification: A Global Problem Affecting All of Us. (10.14.2011)
    • Does the U.S. Government and Policy Makers Really Want Renewable Energy?: Direct and Indirect Federal Subsidies the Oil Industry. (08.20.2010)
    • Don’t Act, Don’t Excel. (12.21.2010)
    • Energy In Living! (05.31.2011)
    • Equation for Human Well-Being Or: How to Combat Climate Change. (05.10.2010)
    • Facts on the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Industry: Is Nuclear Waste and Dirty Bombs From Nuclear Power Plants a Major Problem? (09.20.2010)
    • For Whom The Bells Toll: America There is a Fire, Time to Find a Leader and Do Our Part to Put It Out! (09.05.2010)
    • Forget Politics, Think Economics. (12.03.2009
    • The Garbage Rush Is On? – There is Gold (Energy) in Them There Dumps? (03.23.11)
    • Global Warming Naysayers Says the Heat is On! (11.01.2011)
    • Has the Climate Changed on Capitol Hill? (04.12.2011)
    • Here We Go Again – Up Up and Away With Oil Prices! (03.03.2011)
    • Home on the Range or Can Your EV Get You Home. (02.16.2011)
    • How Hot is Hot? (07.24.2010)
    • How Many Empire State Buildings Does It Take to Equal the Daily Global Consumption of Crude Oil? (04.22.2011)
    • Hydrogen and the Hindenburg Disaster –Safe or Not Safe That is the Question! (02.14.2011)
    • Intermission – “Warrior” the Movie! (09..16.2011)
    • Is Global Warming Unstoppable? (11.29.2009)
    • Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change? (03.20.2011)
    • Is President Obama’s Energy Policy and the DoE Shaken and Not Stirred? (04.22.2011)
    • Is Sustainably a Healthy Choice? (06.17.2011)
    • Is There Light “Solar Power” at the End of the Tunnel? (04.15.2011)
    • Is This the Best America Can Do to Reduce Dependence Foreign-Oil? (05.19.2011)
    • Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior?: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium. (10.03.2010)
    • Just Energy Facts – Source, Consumption and Waste! (10.24.2011)
    • Knowledge and Wisdom – If Humans Can’t Do It Can Machines? (03.14.2011)
    • March of Technologies. (11.23.2009)
    • Money for Nothing – the Falling of Solyndra! (09.14.2011)
    • Natural Gas: The Clean Alternative (12.10.2011)
    • New Jersey’s SREC Based Solar Energy Projects are DOA! (06.13.2011)
    • Nuclear Renaissance – The First Plant in 30 Years. (11.15.2009)
    • Nuclear and Human Waste – Facts and Fiction! (03.16.2011)
    • Nuclear or Petroleum – “It Melted the Concrete”! (03.29.2011)
    • Nuclear’s Double Edge Sword. (11.09.2009)
    • Once Upon a Time in America: Policy, Technological Growth, Energy Security, Economic Recovery and Job Creation. (11.01.2010)
    • Obamaloney and Renewable Energy! (06.25.2011)
    • Obamaloney: Is President Obama Full of It? (08.26.2010)
    • Oil and Gas Hidden Subsidies Can be Hazardous to Your Health! (09.23.2011)
    • Oil Hypocrisy Exposed on Capitol Hill! (09.20.2011)
    • Oil Subsidies 101! (09.23.2011)
    • Oil Subsidies is as American as Apple Pie: Truly Homemade and Here to Stay. (08.24.2010)
    • One Way – Do Not Enter. (03.08.2010)
    • Petroleum Savings if all Passenger Vehicles in U.S. were Hybrids or EVs! (11.04.2011)
    • Possible Death Blow to New Jersey’s Solar Energy Projects! (I, II and III) (05.27.2011)
    • Psalm 223, The GOVERNMENT Should be Our Protector, A Psalm of GOVERNMENT. (02.23.2010)
    • The Quintessential Manifestation of Individualism and Teamwork. (11.24.2009)
    • The Renewable Energy Breakthrough of the Century. (09.17.2010)
    • Should Climate Change Antagonists Move to Green Bay? (08.04.2011)
    • Should Earth Consider Jenny Craig? (07.03.2011)
    • Simple Question: What Are We Doing in Afghanistan, Buying Foreign Oil, …… (02.22.2011)
    • The Sleeping Dragon Awakes – Social Responsibility and Climate Change. (03.02.2011)
    • Solar Energy All Day Long! (06.01.2011)
    • Solar Energy’s Life Depends on Incentives and Policies! (06.05.2011)
    • Spirit of Teamwork (IP, Management and Technology Development). (07.13.2009)
    • Three-Mile Island, (Chernobyl and Now Fukushima Dai-ichi – Is This the Last Nail in Nuclear’s Coffin? (04.06.2011)
    • Time-of-Use Metering (TOU) – Key Policy Decision. (04.16.2010)
    • Time-of-Use Metering – Salvation or Ruination. (04.19.2010)
    • To the Rescue of the EV Comes RIP, NSF and NYSERDA! (02.19.2011)
    • Uncle Sam’s Natural Gas Fueling Stations. (11.23.2009)
    • U.S. Electrical Net Generation and Breakdown by Energy Source. (12.10.2009)
    • U.S. Energy Policy or Congressional Folly. (01.28.2011)
    • USA Stood for Us, A-ME-RICA Now Stands for Me. (09.07.2010)
    • The Virtual World of Renewable Energy from Developers to Investors! (07.05.2011)
    • We the People – When Government No Longer Works! (07.27.2011)
    • What is the true cost of petroleum? (11.15.2009)
    • When Art Leads Science! (09.04.2011)
    • When One Is Too Much! (08.08.2011)
    • When Politics and Renewable Energy Collide! (08.20.2011)
    • Where Have All the Congresspeople Gone.
    • Where is America’s Energy Policy? (08.09.2011)
    • Who Is Your Political Candidate to Make Renewable Energy Happen in the U.S.?
    • Why Are Petroleum Retail Prices so Erratic? (05.19.2011)
    • Why Has America and the Department of Energy (DoE) Abandoned the Lonely Proton? (02.17.2011)
    • Why is the U.S. Government Fiddling While America Burns – Fossil Fuels and Its Future? (04.26.2011)
    • Why is the Oil Industry No Longer Laughing all the Way to the Bank? (04.13.2010)
    • Why Make a Risky Gamble on Our Future? Save our Dollars to Save US. (08.02.2010)

  6. shelley cartier permalink
    December 12, 2011 11:15 AM

    Barry, you still managed to conveniently leave out the dirty little secret of fracking in your original post, which makes your article biased, plain and simple. If you really had an unbiased article you would have brought this subject up and you would have dedicated at least a paragraph to the concerns of the environmentalists, rather than one dismissive sentence.

    You say you are a proponent of renewables, but you don’t use the words, clean energy, which is what I am a proponent of. Fracking is not clean. And natural gas is not renewable. There is a finite amount, just like oil.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    December 13, 2011 6:01 PM


    Debated about wasting my time to reply to your comments.

    The fact remains, when you stop being a postman and regurgitating things you hear from the peanut gallery rather than the facts, then I may contemplate having an intelligent conversation with you.

    BTW, there were 32,708 automotive fatalities in the U.S. for 2010, alone. Maybe we should ban automobiles.


  8. shelley cartier permalink
    December 13, 2011 9:40 PM

    I don’t have time to debate anything with you. But I assure you that I do not regurgitate anything from anyone. And since you don’t know me, you can’t possibly make that claim.

    Throwing insults at me doesn’t change the fact that you still have not addressed my initial claim that your article was biased. Perhaps you should take a course in journalism so that you understand the difference between reporting facts and writing op-eds. I find it interesting that you requested a connection with me through Linked-in. Hmmm.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    December 14, 2011 1:07 PM

    Stay tuned, in a day or so I will release a follow-up piece titled “Natural Gas is not a Fracking Mess.”

  10. December 14, 2011 4:36 PM

    Stay tuned, in a day or so I will release a follow-up piece titled “Natural Gas is not a Fracking Mess.”

  11. Anonymous permalink
    December 15, 2011 1:55 PM

    don’t oversell the risks – all processes have risks even so called “clean” ones. It is most definately not a “dirty little secret” but a well known operating risk that is well managed by the extrem vast majority of E&D operations..

    You clearly understand very little about this process…Given that there have been many hundreds of thousands of fracks in North America ( the 1st was in 1947 for the current technology, but fracking actually goes back over a century – I’ve seen estimates of over a million, and the extreme low number of issues, which are all connected with surface water and methane, and many of those are aguable and would not have aoccured had operators followe procedure.. that would seem to suggest that the risk is well worth taking to achive the goal of pretty much energy self sufficiency..

  12. Anonymous permalink
    December 16, 2011 8:24 AM

    Dear Shelly that quote that increasing use of Shale gas has “Challanging but Manageable ” environmental impacts if very fair & from the report that Barry Points to from from a goodly number of the Engineering & Science Faculty at MIT…after what looks like a fairly lengthy & exhaustive study where the actually looked at evidence and fact, not recirculated Internet Hyperbole

    What do you know that they don’t ???? very little I suspect…


  13. Anonymous permalink
    December 21, 2011 11:06 PM

    Yes, natural gas has significant environmental and other impacts. I read in the open source intel lit almost daily about a natural gas explosion or fire. Some are major disasters, other minor accidents, but all can lead to major loss of life. Take a look at the vegetation around a major gas well field, or the destruction of grazing areas in the West.

  14. January 10, 2012 11:26 AM

    Natural Gas the Clean Alternative BarryOnEnergy is a great article. I liked reading this. If you like, check out my own web-site.

  15. Anonymous permalink
    February 10, 2012 1:55 AM

    The site you are referring to has a headline ” Energy Production”.
    How is this done ?


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