New pipeline across Massachusetts: gas produces hot air

Not likely marked much in Brookline, over the past year a proposed new natural-gas pipeline for the Northeast has been stirring up protests in upstate New York and the northern tier of Massachusetts towns. In those venues, you might think “The British are coming” again. Today the New York Times took notice, in its patronizing way, documenting the proposal and political struggles.

As any seasoned observer of energy issues would know, over the past 20 years natural gas became a quiet hero of a revolution in New England energy practices–as contrasted with contributions from “energy policy” and other hot air castles. The outcome of the revolution has been drastic declines in New England air pollution and “greenhouse gas” emissions.

In a sidebar, the recent NY Times article shows that 14 years ago New England electricity was 18 percent coal, 22 percent petroleum, 15 percent natural gas and 31 percent nuclear–balance hydro and “renewables.” Two years ago–the latest in federal data tables–generation had shifted to 3 percent coal, 1 percent petroleum, 52 percent natural gas and still 31 percent nuclear.

The former 40-percent coal and petroleum shrank to only 4 percent, almost entirely replaced by natural gas. Plants running on natural gas emit very little air pollution and less than two-thirds the “greenhouse gases.” If the U.S. had followed energy practices of New England, it would have greatly exceeded goals of the Kyoto treaty, and it would lead the world in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.

Should they notice at all, local environmentalists will probably chant a politically correct “party line” against any expansion of fossil fuels–whatever the costs and whatever the benefits. However, their favored wind and solar sources have yet to generate more than about a percent of New England electricity. The obvious problems remain unsolved: high cost and low reliability–little improved despite decades of development.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 11, 2014

Tom Zeller, Jr., Natural gas pipeline plan creates rift in Massachusetts, New York Times, July 11, 2014

Erin Ailworth, Massachusetts pipeline plan stirs hope and alarm, Boston Globe, June 9, 2014

Erin Ailworth, Utilities seek boost in region’s natural gas, Boston Globe, November 5, 2013

Craig Bolon, Coal-fired and oil-fired electricity in New England, Energy and Environment, October 17, 2013

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