Earlier this week, supporters (and some protesting opponents) of natural gas gathered at a conference in Riverside to discuss California’s move to become a zero-emission state, spurred by the 2018 signing of Senate Bill 1477, aimed at making California homes and businesses “near-zero emissions.”
Organizers of the conference, Inland Empire city leaders of Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions, were urging state officials not eliminate the use of natural gas in the state.
While increasing our use of electricity as technologies and infrastructure develop is prudent, insisting on total electrification is monomaniac. For the sake of reliability and security of our energy systems and all the vital systems and services they support throughout our homes, cities and government, it would be foolish to consciously move toward dependence on ever fewer types of energy.
Natural gas is a more affordable and stably priced method of cooking and heating homes and businesses than electricity. Insisting on all-electric homes and businesses would only worsen this state’s housing affordability crisis.
Natural gas also offers a major environmental benefit as a cleaner alternative to coal-burning power plants. Historically, coal has been our nation’s dominant source of electricity and a major source of greenhouse gases, but thanks to the natural gas boom, with more gas available at a lower cost, that is changing. Natural gas has replaced coal as the preferred fuel for new power plants and many existing coal plants are being converted to clean-burning natural gas.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas surpassed coal as the top source of electricity in 2016. In 2018, natural gas generated 31.1 percent of the nation’s electricity and coal had fallen to 27.4 percent.
Besides, electricity is not the complete and total environmental savior some like to portray it as.
The increased use of electricity requires enormous amounts of copper to be mined. To write “tons of copper” would be a gross understatement. A single wind turbine uses up to 4 tons of copper, not counting the infrastructure connecting it to energy customers. A typical wind farm contains 4 million to 15 million pounds of copper.
Solar panel systems also require copper, about 5.5 tons per megawatt, according to a report by Renewable Energy World.
Yet, as people are championing electrification, environmental groups across the nation are simultaneously suing mining operations and doing all they can to prevent the mining of copper.
The Duluth Complex in Minnesota holds the second largest copper deposit in the world, about 34 percent of the United States’ resource, yet it is largely undeveloped being the center of legal battles, according to MiningMinnesota.com.
The electrification of cars requires the mining of toxic heavy metals and rare-earths for batteries and other electrical components.
People vilify natural gas for its mining, but if we want greater use of electricity we’re going to have to mine for it.