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As major parties embrace fracking, report shows natural gas 'bridge to climate disaster'

It is widely expected that production in the Appalachian Basin region will double over current levels by the early 2030s, leading to an inevitable "pipeline rush." (Photo: Oil Change International)
Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, Jul 22 2016 - 19:15

As the Democratic Party comes under fire for not taking a strong enough stance on fracking, and Donald Trump considers drilling tycoon Harold Hamm for Energy Secretary in his hypothetical cabinet, a new report out Friday details how proposed natural gas expansion in the U.S. stands to undermine national climate goals as well as public and environmental health.

A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline Expansion Will Undermine U.S. Climate Goals (pdf), from Oil Change International (OCI) in partnership with 11 other organizations, "shows that current projections for U.S. natural gas production—fueled by a boom in the Appalachian basin—will lock in enough carbon to bust through agreed climate goals," according to a press statement from OCI. 

Echoing arguments made by environmentalist Bill McKibben and others, the report undercuts the specious argument that natural gas is a "bridge" fuel spanning the gap between dirty fossil fuels and clean renewable energy.

Indeed, said OCI executive director Stephen Kretzmann, "expanded natural gas production is a bridge to climate disaster. Our report shows that even if we entirely eliminated emissions from coal and oil, the emissions from the natural gas boom alone would still blow our climate budget. This should be a wake up call to anyone promoting natural gas as a bridge to a clean energy future. Put simply, it's not."

Specifically, the report highlights three conclusions:

  1. There are 19 key new proposed natural gas pipelines in the Appalachian basin. All of them are incompatible with the Paris target and existing U.S. climate goals;
  2. Stopping this new supply infrastructure is critical to the Keep It In the Ground movement's goals of stopping infrastructure that creates carbon lock-in; and
  3. All new energy projects must pass a climate test to prove their viability in a climate safe world. These new gas pipelines fail that test.

In fact, the report declares, "the currently planned gas production expansion in Appalachia would make meeting U.S. climate goals impossible...This makes it clear that the growing use of gas is out of sync with U.S. climate goals."

OCI and its partners stressed on Friday that renewable energy is "ready" to step in to replace dirty fuels.

"West Virginia's economy, environmental preservation, social justice issues and citizen well-being will be best served by shifting the focus to developing statewide renewable energy resource infrastructures," said Laurie Ardison, a member of the executive committee of the West Virginia Sierra Club.

"As one of the most susceptible states in the country to the devastating effects of sea-level rise, Virginia cannot afford to be locked into decades of more reliance on fossil fuels," added Anne Havemann, general counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which is planning a climate rally this Saturday in front of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's mansion to call for "solar panels, not pipelines," among other demands.

Friday's analysis comes on the heels of another recent report showing that U.S. public lands and ocean regions already under lease for fossil fuel extraction will be producing coal, oil, and gas decades beyond the point at which scientists predict the world will surpass the temperature targets set out in the Paris climate agreement, as Common Dreams reported. 


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