The great American natural gas reckoning is upon us

“Whether LNG is better for the climate than other options is a topic of intense debate. If it replaces coal, then in general, yes. Since it’s made mostly of methane, it burns more cleanly than coal, producing roughly half of the greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s still a fossil fuel that contributes to warming, and every new gas terminal, transport tanker, and power plant implies these emissions will continue for decades more.
By one estimate, US LNG shipments to China reduced the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions — the amount of greenhouse gases released per unit of energy — by as much as 57 percent. Other analyses have also found that countries that import LNG produce power with lower emissions than with local coal. Another advantage is that gas produces fewer air polluting substances like particulates, so turning away from coal has immediate health benefits. And having more cheap gas on the global market could undermine the case for new coal power plants in some countries, if they can secure a reliable gas supplier.

But some environmental activists say this paints too optimistic a picture. For gas importers like the United Kingdom, LNG has a greenhouse gas footprint four times larger than gas extracted locally. Methane is itself a heat-trapping gas, about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so small leaks from gas infrastructure — as little as 0.2 percent — can quickly overwhelm any environmental advantages. The added steps of chilling and shipping gas create even more opportunities for LNG to escape, and the industry has done a poor job of tracking its fugitive emissions. In addition, some LNG exports will simply fill in existing gas needs, as they do in parts of Europe, so the climate impact overall is at best a wash, though likely worse than more locally produced gas. At the same time, renewable energy is already the cheapest source of electricity in many parts of the world, and climate activists argue that gas no longer serves as a bridge to a low-carbon world.”

The US power grid quietly survived its most brutal summer yet

“Part of the reason that Texas sometimes struggles to make enough electricity is that it has a freewheeling power market with fewer interventions from regulators than those in other states. The priority is to sell electricity in real time at the lowest possible cost, with little backup margin, although that’s starting to change. Spurred by the 2021 blackout in Texas from Winter Storm Uri that cut off power to 4 million customers and killed at least 246 people, ERCOT implemented rules to encourage more reserve power on its grid.”

Is the future of energy … pouring water on hot rocks in the ground?

“If the economics can be made to work, geothermal would provide a renewable energy source that’s always on, and that employs plenty of ex-oil and gas workers, to boot. That has been its promise for decades. Maybe the 2020s will end up being the time that promise is finally fulfilled.”

Why ultra-green Germany turned its back on nuclear energy

“the White House has invested heavily in sustaining the country’s nuclear infrastructure, and President Joe Biden has also touted nuclear as an important component in the country’s quest for carbon neutrality. Many countries are following the same path based on similar climate calculations, and some experts support this position. “Nuclear is actually one of the cleanest and safest energy sources,” Kharecha says. For countries that want to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution, he says that nuclear energy should be embraced — at least until better options come along.
But environmental advocacy groups and left-leaning American voters have traditionally opposed nuclear power. And, despite the president’s efforts, recent Gallup data suggest this is still the case: Less than half of Democrats back nuclear, compared to 62 percent of Republicans.”

“The Chernobyl meltdown captivated and horrified many Americans. But while the US shuddered, Germans suffered directly from the disaster’s fallout. It wasn’t just a question of tainted milk. Radioactive particles drifted across much of the German landscape. Sandboxes were nicknamed “death boxes.” Contamination turned up in meat, vegetables, fruits, and foodstuffs produced all over the country, and frightened parents didn’t know what to feed their children. Some experts estimated that hundreds of thousands of people on the continent would eventually develop Chernobyl-related cancers. That didn’t come to pass, but recent government analyses of German wild mushrooms found that 95 percent of samples still contained radioactive contamination from Chernobyl, and the residue of that disaster has likewise soaked deep into the nation’s views on nuclear power.”

“There are some unimpeachable justifications for opposing nuclear energy. There’s the risk of a catastrophic accident, first and foremost, and also the problem of storing or disposing of nuclear waste.

“From our point of view, it’s not right to say nuclear is a sustainable technology,” says Kopf, the Greens politician. “You need uranium, which is not extracted in an environmentally friendly way, and there is no real solution for nuclear waste.”

However, when making energy trade-offs, these risks must be balanced against the harms associated with the use of non-nuclear energy sources — such as air pollution and CO2 emissions produced by fossil fuels. According to estimates from Our World in Data, nuclear is cleaner and safer than any power source apart from solar. The number of deaths caused by either accidents or air pollution as a result of nuclear power is estimated to be just 0.03 deaths per terawatt-hour of energy produced. That is far, far below the 18 deaths and 25 deaths per terawatt-hour associated with oil and coal sources, respectively.”