Advocacy group reacts to increased reliance on natural gas


The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has issued recommendations to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy investments to reduce the impacts of climate change.

The recommendations follow last week’s release of the 2019 US energy outlook by the Energy Information Administration.

The energy outlook forecasts an increase in the use of natural gas ahead of renewables, coal and nuclear for energy generation through 2050.

The UCS says natural gas overreliance will keep US power sector emissions high.

Hence, much more investment in renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies is necessary to limit the impacts of climate change.

Steve Clemmer, director of energy research and analysis at UCS, said:  “The report makes it very clear that the nation’s energy system continues to undergo an incredible transformation—where renewables are going to be a leading source of energy over the long term. But when you read the report you realize that absent swift and aggressive policy action, we are far from achieving the carbon reductions needed to curtail climate change.

“The report shows after having declined for the last several years, the US power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions will level out after 2022 due to an increased reliance on natural gas and the phasing out of federal tax credits for renewables.

“EIA predicts that nuclear plants will continue to struggle economically primarily because of cheap natural gas. Replacing nuclear plants with natural gas also contributes to higher emissions as seen in EIA’s forecast. As a recent UCS analysis found, keeping safely operating nuclear plants running until they can be replaced with energy efficiency, renewables, and other low carbon technologies would help prevent this outcome.

 “Notably, in my 20-plus years of looking at the EIA’s annual report, this is the first time I’ve seen the national report not include projections for total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. From a climate perspective, it’s critical to know how many tons are being released and how much we need to reduce emissions over time. While this data is available online, it begs the question of why the EIA left this essential information out.

“The big take away from this report is that business can’t continue as usual because EIA modeled that scenario and it shows the market won’t rapidly decarbonise the power sector, but strong climate and energy policies will. We need strong policies such as a national price on carbon or a low-carbon electricity standard to phase out fossil fuels more quickly and to do our part to address the global climate crisis.”