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Monday, January 13, 2014

Maryland Needs to Embrace the Natural Gas Economy

Those who think we are on the cusp of a green energy revolution should read the latest issue of Scientific American. Professor Vaclav Smir, in an article titled "The Slow Rise of Solar and Wind, notes that all global energy transitions have taken 50-60 years, with the pace slowing, not increasing over time. He estimates we are 50-75 years away from renewable sources achieving a meaningful market share of energy production - especially in a world with roughly $20 trillion invested in infrastructure to support the fossil fuel system. He found that since 1980, the best return on federal investment has come not from renewables but from work on horizontal drilling and fracking shale deposits.

We cannot spend the next 3 generations burning ever more coal, it is a dirty and dangerous fuel source and a major contributor to global CO2 increases. People need to see natural gas for the crucial and beneficial stopgap that it is. Our nation's steady transition to natural gas in recent years resulted in U.S. CO2 emissions falling to their lowest levels in 20 years

The more we replace coal with gas, the better off we are. In MD, the Western part of the state sits atop one of the largest known shale gas deposits - the Marcellus Shale. But while other states are busy extracting gas from the shale beneath their states, Maryland dithers. Many want to ban hydraulic fracking in the state - convinced that a green energy revolution is right around the corner. What they're really doing is perpetuating the use of coal. We need to stop playing politics with the Western MD shale deposits and start extracting the natural gas.

And then we need to allow a new liquefied natural gas export facility in Sourthern MD at Cove Point (quite literally my back yard) so that we can export our natural gas to nations that might otherwise be burning coal. In the last decade, China has invested $500 million in New coal fired power plants to produce 300 gigawatts of new energy. According to Smil, that's more than the combined fossil fuel generating capacity of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK! There can be no question but that natural gas is the better and the greener alternative. But for a country to rely on gas instead of coal, gas must be available and the supply reliable. We can make that happen. So why is Maryland standing in the way?