Wall Street Journal Catches On to the Green Campaign Against Natural Gas

Reason told you so a while back, i.e., the environmentalist lobby that had once touted natural gas as the "bridge fuel" to renewable power future had turned against it. Why? Because the renewables they favor can't compete with cheap abundant natural gas. My 2011 column, Natural Gas Flip-Flop, reported:

The national green lobbies initially welcomed shale gas. In 2009, for example, Robert Kennedy Jr., head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, called it “an obvious bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.” Local environmental activists were not as enthusiastic, arguing that fracking contaminates drinking water and causes other forms of pollution. After a while, some of the national lobbies began to come around to the locals’ side. In the words of the journalist Matt Ridley, “it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy.” Josh Fox, director of the anti–natural gas documentary Gasland, put it bluntly on Kennedy’s radio show: “What’s really happening here is not a battle between natural gas and coal. What’s happening here is a battle between another dirty fossil fuel and renewable energy.”

Indeed, natural gas is cheaper than renewable sources of energy, even if you include the costs of carbon capture and sequestration. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2011 calculates the levelized costs of electric power generation for various fuel sources. (Levelized costs include all capital, operating and maintenance, fuel, and transmission costs for building plants now that would switch on by 2016.) Electricity produced using natural gas in a combined cycle generating plant comes in at $66 per megawatt-hour. By contrast, offshore wind clocks in at $243 per megawatt-hour, photovoltaic at $211, solar thermal at $312, geothermal at $102, and biomass at $113. The only renewable sources that are close to competitive with natural gas are onshore wind at $97 per megawatt-hour and hydroelectric at $86.

Now the Journal has noticed the green flip-flop on gas and is reporting: 

...one of the most powerful environmental lobbies, the Sierra Club, is mounting a major campaign to kill the industry.

The battle plan is called "Beyond Natural Gas," and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune announced the goal in an interview with the National Journal this month: "We're going to be preventing new gas plants from being built wherever we can." The big green lobbying machine has rolled out a new website that says "The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok" and that "The closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be." So the goal is to shut the industry down, not merely to impose higher safety standards.

This is no idle threat. The Sierra Club has deep pockets funded by liberal foundations and knows how to work the media and politicians. The lobby helped to block new nuclear plants for more than 30 years, it has kept much of the U.S. off-limits to oil drilling, and its "Beyond Coal" campaign has all but shut down new coal plants. One of its priorities now will be to make shale gas drilling anathema within the Democratic Party.

The political irony is that not too long ago the Sierra Club and other greens portrayed natural gas as the good fossil fuel. The Sierra Club liked natural gas so much (and vice versa) that from 2007-2010 the group received $26 million in donations from Chesapeake Energy and others in the gas industry, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Some of that money was for the Beyond Coal campaign.

One reason for this once-mutual affection is that natural gas produces much less carbon emissions than does coal—and the Sierra Club claims to want fewer such emissions...

But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent gas prices down to $2.50, the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production. At that price, the Sierra Club's Valhalla of wind, solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. So the green left has decided it must do everything it can to reduce the supply of gas and keep its price as high as possible.

Go here to read the whole WSJ op/ed. 

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  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    I swear, I think that even if the watermelons got their "renewable energy", they'd wind up finding things "wrong" with it too. I think their ideal society would have everybody--except the "elite" who would of course be the watermelons--living in mud huts.

  • R C Dean||

    Oh, they already have. Windmills kill birds. Dams kill rivers. Solar generation plants destroy fragile desert ecosystems.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Dams do cause some pretty serious environmental issues, but they're hard to see and harder to understand than dead birds and black clouds over smokestacks.

  • ||

    Dams do cause some pretty serious environmental issues

    Yeah they turn river systems that scour the river banks every year with floods into lakes with complex riparian ecological systems.

  • fried wylie||

    you're just in the pocket of Big Littoris.

  • Brandon||

    Who isn't?

  • BarryD||

    Fish spawned in those rivers.

    And rivers that scour their banks are complex riparian ecosystems. Reservoirs aren't.

  • fried wylie||

    "Water? Never touch the stuff, fish fuck in it."

  • kevbo||

    I've been trying to figure this one out for a while. They are also against nuclear energy, which is bizarre to me. Everything that can survive in a free market, they are opposed to. The only explanation I can come up with is that they want to propel an industry that could only work when there are regulations in place and create a political force that can rival the oil/gas lobby. It's the same scheme they use with public sector unions.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Nuclear power produces some seriously problematic waste.

    There really is no clean, scalable energy source at our current level of technology. There are accidents of geography we can take advantage of like geothermal and wind, but everything else is problematic.

  • BarryD||

    Yup.

    I think that Thorium reactors might be worth the waste, but we have a serious psychological resistance to accepting that any new energy source might have any cost whatsoever. It has to be all free and clean and perfect, or else we just have to live in grass huts and die at age 35.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Don't be ridiculous. You'll either die before your 2 birthday or after your 60th.

  • ||

    Conventional nuclear waste has been a solved problem for decades apart from those who are incapable of understanding risk and/or have some quasireligious understanding and fear of radiation. LMFBR waste is more dangerous, yes, but it's also important to keep in mind that the waste products of nuclear energy are incredibly well-contained.

    There's a shitload of radioactive/carcinogenic/otherwise fun material being dispersed directly into the atmosphere when you burn coal even after scrubbing, and that's almost always been the default go-to when nuclear has been blocked, and it's multiple orders of magnitude worse.

  • ||

    “The old-line Marxists used to claim that a single modern factory could produce enough shoes to provide for the whole population of the world and that nothing but capitalism prevented it. When they discovered the facts of reality involved, they declared that going barefoot is superior to wearing shoes.” --Ayn Rand

  • Alan||

    Yes. Always funny how the people demanding change also happen to be the wise people who should run the new society, and they should live very comfortably because they need to be well-rested to do their jobs properly.

  • Brandybuck||

    Possible explanations for radical environmentalists:
    1) Belief in Never Never Land
    2) Pathological ignorance of economics
    3) Malevolent hatred of modern civilization
    4) All of the above

  • John||

    You forgot malevolent hatred of mankind.

  • fried wylie||

    since independent AI lifeforms don't exist yet, I think BB covered that with #3.

  • SugarFree||

    I seriously believe it's just garden variety idiocy. If you notice, they end up always pitching it in conspiracy terms: Green energy exists, magical wonderful stuff, but the greedy corporations keep it from being used. They don't care about science, or economics, or really even politics--all they care about is validating their childish take on reality.

  • Brett L||

    Its classic conspiracy theory stuff. OPEC can't seem to keep its membership from overproducing when the price of oil exceeds their internal targets, but somehow energy companies are all monoliithicly opposed to developing a comparative advantage in their marketplace. Oh, and the 100 mile per gallon carburator.

  • ||

    You'l know when solar becomes efficient when the left starts screaming about the rapacious windfall profits of Big Solar and how we need to stop them.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    No good deed goes unpunished. I invested several years ago in natural gas - the clean fuel of the future.
    My monthly royalty checks went from $500 to about $200 today, and will soon go even lower as several states
    are about to impose severance taxes.
    Wind and solar investments seem much more risky, so the upshot will be that
    those who still have money to invest
    will look away from the energy sector.

  • fried wylie||

    Worst. Haiku. Ever.

  • Tulpa the White||

    By contrast, offshore wind clocks in at $243 per megawatt-hour, photovoltaic at $211, solar thermal at $312, geothermal at $102, and biomass at $113. The only renewable sources that are close to competitive with natural gas are onshore wind at $97 per megawatt-hour and hydroelectric at $86.

    And the only one of these that's scalable is (possibly) solar, and that's assuming you don't mind putting gigantic swaths of Earth's surface in the shade. There really aren't any more rivers worth damming in North America, biomass is only cheap because no one's using all that waste right now, and wind and geothermal can only be developed in very specific places.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tulpa the White,

    biomass is only cheap because no one's using all that waste right now,


    I can vouch for that: The cement industry is ramping up the usage of so-called "alternative" fuels as a way to reduce their reliance on coal and also to obtain the coveted tax credits; pretty soon the "cheap" alternative will increase in price due to this demand. Cement is also switching to natural gas to fire up the kilns, so expect the price to come up in the future as demand increases.

    and wind and geothermal can only be developed in very specific places.


    Plus only geothermal is reliable enough to be cheap. Wind energy is unreliable (because it cannot provide a constant supply) plus the inefficiency inherent with its economics of dispersion dooms the technology to become nothing more than a monument to folly, along with bamboo airplanes and Easter Island Moai.

  • BarryD||

    Scotch distilleries have been using peat as fuel for a couple of centuries, at least.

  • Joe R.||

    If the Sierra Club starts taking peat from distilleries, I'm going from Bruce Banner to Hulk in about 2 seconds flat.

  • BarryD||

    Me, too.

    Imagine something like Popeye, but the music is "Scotland the Brave" and instead of a can of spinach, it's a bottle of Laphroaig.

  • fried wylie||

    and Easter Island Moai.

    I said from the beginning that they were a bad idea.

  • Alan||

    Of the earth-based renewables, geothermal is the only one I'd fool around with. Small footprint, reliable, and new techniques allow it to be developed in about 75% of the U.S.A.

    Space-based solar might be cheaper than coal within 50 years. It has the great advantage of being usable round the clock.

    One other thing these idiots forget: Natural gas is a bridge fuel, all right - and renewables will become vastly cheaper than natural gas when new technologies allow the infrastructure to be developed at much lower costs. That will probably happen in less than 30 years. These people are just idiots, idiots, IDIOTS. And did I mention that these people are idiots?

  • the other alan||

    Front page in NY Times today:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05.....883A67A193

    Basically, the coal industry is against natural gas too, but for essentially opposite reasons. Pretty good symmetry there, yes no?

  • Tulpa the White||

    This is a real Baptists and bootleggers coalition. Anthracite and Luddite?

  • ||

    The battle plan is called "Beyond Natural Gas," and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune announced the goal in an interview with the National Journal this month: "We're going to be preventing new gas plants from being built wherever we can.

    Asshole. They did that with nuclear plants and look where that got us.

  • SugarFree||

    I'm reminded of the good old days, when Chad claimed repeatedly he got all his electricity from wind power for a mere $5 more a month.

  • ||

    It doesn't take much to power a cardboard box.

  • ||

    Actually when I was picking out an electricity plan the 100% wind ones were only about $1 extra per KW depending on the provider.

  • SugarFree||

    He also denied that that price was subsidized in any way.

  • Brett L||

    $1/KWh = $1000/MWh. Given that the difference is under $200/MWh, you're getting fucked.

  • Rich||

    greens portrayed natural gas as the good fossil fuel

    That's because it's natural, and a gas. Not an artificial liquid, like oil, or a man-made solid, like coal.

  • BarryD||

    Yeah. Natural gas doesn't have any chemicals in it!

  • wareagle||

    efforts at grasping wind and solar have been around for at least as long as I've been alive and they are barely farther along now than they were then. Meanwhile, an abundant source of energy - produced by nature, but the greens are too dense to notice the irony - that we know how to use and is relatively affordable.

    Every new round of bleating from them simply reinforces that they are anti-progress, anti-people, anti-anything that creates a job and/or is not a subset of govt.

  • Brett L||

    Solar PV has become both more efficient and more durable over the last 30 years. The problem is that going from 15% efficiency (current production scale) to 30% efficiency (laboratory scale) only doubles your power per square meter. If we're getting 2% from solar now and we put in the fancy new ones, we can get 4% at the cost of completely replacing all of our current cells. Even phasing them out at end of lifetime, this is an expensive option.

    Of course, I have yet to see a model for solar PV where the lifetime net power savings were greater than the capital cost. Its still cheaper to pay retail for power.

  • Old Mexican||

    But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent gas prices down to $2.50, the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production.


    The lobby fears? Or their enablers from the coal industry?

    Do you really think liberal groups have deep pockets? Think again: You're seeing a clash of industries in the arena managed by the Sierra Club. Without the come-hither money from each of those iondustries meant to undermine each other, the Sierra Club would be no greater than Tubby's club.

  • GILMORE||

    natural gas produces much less carbon emissions than does coal—and the Sierra Club claims to want fewer such emissions...

    But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent gas prices down to $2.50, the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production

    One begins to notice over time that the 'environmental' lobby never seems to ultimately care about practical efforts to gradually clean up energy production, so much as maintain a persistent and hysterical effort to demonize and destroy any form of energy that isn't so *inefficient* that ultimately what it will require is a radical reduction in energy consumption (as well as overall population) in order to meet its limiting constraints on resource consumption.

    what it seems they really want is to engineer a mythic-utopian totalitarian society around their 'pure earth' myth, mainly via backdoor incremental regulation of major economic sectors like energy production.

    restrictions on baby-making would come next. Or food production.

  • Public Citizzen||

    The political/enviro groups all seem to advocate a reduction in utility resources. Their membership needs to step up to the plate and set a good example for the rest of us by limiting their usage to less than the average amount currently being used in order to start the reduction in usage.
    With the increasing use of electronic metering on electricity - gas - water utilities perhaps it is time to start matching membership rolls of all the environmental advocacy groups with their utility meters.
    That way they can have their "fair share" of the available resources without unfairly burdening their less fortunate citizens.
    When they reach their periodic usage limit the meter will automatically turn off their utility until the beginning of the next metering period.
    Don't want your utilities to start acting like 3rd world services? Then grow up and stop supporting rainbow-unicorn fantasies and start working for real world improvements.

  • albo||

    Environmentalists want us to die cold and in the dark. Preferably in a world where most of the population has died out and is not abusing Gaia anymore.

    They suck. And, frankly, they're more evil than Donald Trump and the Kardashians combined.

  • albo||

    Natural gas and wind and solar panels should all just be transitional energy sources until we perfect solar satellites beaming power to rectennas on Earth. Or until fusion.

    The greens don't think big enough.

  • BarryD||

    Rectennas sounds like an early South Park episode...

  • Alan||

    Space-based solar - yes - and on our way to a Kardashev Type II civilization.

    But the imbeciles won't like that either, because they're imbeciles and have an unhealthy fascination with "purity".

  • ||

    Let's not forget the schlockumentary Gasland, which still has quite a few true believers pimping it.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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