Natural Gas: An Energy Source for the Future? Examining The Role for Natural Gas in the Future of United States Energy Mix
Energy policy should meet these two fundamental criteria: it should decrease the nation's impact on the climate and it should increase the nation's energy security. It is doubtful that any single energy policy could, with today's technology, meet both of these goals without at least some costs. Many of the solutions presented to solve global warming are expensive, but would increase the United States' energy security. Others may be financially cheap to implement while also improving energy security, but would drastically increase emissions of carbon dioxide. The best energy policy would find a compromise between these objectives that would remain stable long into the foreseeable future. One energy source presented as a solution to this dilemma is natural gas, a relatively clean burning gaseous fossil fuel. Natural gas is already abundantly used and its use is expected to increase. The United States Department of Energy has claimed that "that 900 of the next 1000 US power plants will use natural gas" (DOEwebsite 2007). It is relatively cheap, clean, and easy to use, but is natural gas really a good energy path for the United States to pursue? United States' policy regarding natural gas must be examined using the important criteria of climate stability and energy security. The rest of this document will be focused on natural gas and US policy surrounding it. First natural gas will be looked at to discover exactly what it is, followed by an examination of its much trumpeted benefits over other conventional fossil fuels. Known and suspected reserves in America will then be compared to natural gas distribution across the planet. After the fundamentals of natural gas have been discussed, United States' policy regarding energy in general, and natural gas in particular, will be examined. This will allow it to be shown whether or not natural gas can succeed at fulfilling the two requirements set out for energy policy. It will be seen that due to natural gas' limited global supply combined with the concentration of known gas reserves in only a few countries, natural gas is, in fact, not a secure fuel source as it is threatened by market manipulation. Simultaneously, should America seriously consider lowering its greenhouse gas emissions to a level that is sustainable for the climate, it will be evident that adding more natural gas to America's energy mix will not achieve emission reductions but rather add to emissions as a whole. Even if natural gas is substituted for coal and oil, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions would not be large enough to meet scientific reduction recommendations. Thus, as this paper shall illustrate, natural gas is not a recommended fuel source for the United States as it fails to provide energy security or protect climatic stability, and, therefore, any policies that act to encourage natural gas, particularly at the expense of other clean energy sources, should be discouraged.
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