Fighting energy poverty with natural gas
Energy poverty is a growing challenge, with 18 percent of the world’s population without access to even marginal electricity. CEO of Chevron, Michael Wirth, does a sobering job of chronicling the negative impact of our energy shortage:
Today, over 1 billion people worldwide have no electricity. Almost 40 percent of humanity – nearly 3 billion people – still use biomass, animal dung or other fuels that are dangerous for indoor cooking and heating, no different than was done hundreds of years ago. Living in energy poverty is not simply an inconvenience; it’s a social and economic tragedy. According to a report by the World Bank, the lack of modern, efficient cooking fuels is “one of the world’s major public health challenges, causing more premature deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.” According to the World Health Organization, more than 4 million people die each year from the effects of indoor air pollution, half of them children under the age of 5. Every global citizen deserves access to safe, reliable, affordable energy and the human progress it enables. Energy opens the door to education, to sanitation and health care, and to the first steps on an economic pathway to better support families. Helping countries defeat energy poverty strengthens effective governments, spurs economic growth that creates openings for trade, and makes environmental improvement possible.
Wirth's comments mirror the thesis behind a book by Alex Epstein, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Epstein’s bottom line is that without access to energy, life expectancy and quality of life both suffer dramatically. Epstein leads us through the solution to energy poverty – embracing fossil fuels, particularly natural gas as a bridge to even more sustainable energy sources.
Natural gas in particular is not only a bridge, but a modern miracle fuel source that burns cleanly and can provide economic baseload electricity for the world – and here in the Appalachian Basin we have more of it than anywhere else. Because of its clean burn, using natural gas can substantially decrease greenhouse gases while at the same time electrifying the world!
The fact that natural gas can reduce carbon emissions was recently reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in an article in The Washington Post:
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 2.7 percent last year, the first year of the Trump presidency, even as the administration slashed environmental regulations and global emissions continued to climb. “Thanks to President Trump’s regulatory reform agenda, the economy is booming, energy production is surging and we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources,” said Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the EPA. The years long decline in U.S. emissions has been widely credited to the oil and gas boom. Power plants increasingly turned from coal to natural gas as innovations in extraction technology resulted in lower prices.
There is much to digest here but one clear takeaway would seem to be the need for more clean burning natural gas – which, combined with renewables, will lead the U.S. forward over the next 20 years.