Posted by: Li Ling Young | March 1, 2013

Natural Gas

Because little about this house had been changed since it was built 60 years ago, we had the good fortune that some of our energy decisions were made easy for us.  If the house had already been hooked up to the natural gas pipeline, which probably came through this neighborhood in the 1980’s, I don’t think Nik and I would have ever questioned what our primary fuel would be.  But because the house was still using fuel oil for heating, we got to choose whether to start using a cheaper, cleaner, more convenient fuel that burns more efficiently.

Any natural gas you use now is supporting fracking, with it's drilling, polluted aquifers and earthqakes.

Any natural gas you use now is supporting fracking, with it’s drilling, polluted aquifers and earthqakes.

As attractive as natural gas is, it comes with a host of ethical baggage.  We decided no to natural gas, and here’s why…

  • Natural gas is not renewable, and so is nothing more than a diversion on the way to beating climate change and repositioning our economy based on clean energy
  • The current low price of natural gas comes at the expense of polluted drinking water wells in other parts of the country
  • The natural gas supplier charges $17/month to be hooked up to the gas network, money I’d rather spend making my home more efficient

In a recent blog entry by Alex Wilson, Vermont’s Grandaddy of green buildings, Alex makes these further points

  • The cost of natural gas is artificially depressed because of a lack of facilities to compress it for transport overseas.  If all fifteen planned liquid natural gas facilities come on line the price pressure on natural gas will be tremendous.
  • As a relatively new technology, hydrofracturing for natural gas is poorly regulated and the natural gas industry is not transparent about what kinds of chemicals it uses, leaves in the ground and pumps out for “disposal”.
  • Depletion of natural gas wells may be much more rapid than anyone is expecting, which will leave a tremendous amount of infrastructure dependent on a dwindling resource.  (I would add that all the resources that went into building natural gas electricity generating plants could have been used in making our buildings and vehicles more energy efficient, a far better way to meet our energy needs.)
  • Unintentional, unreported leaks of methane gas could mean that the impact of natural gas on climate change is much worse than is widely understood.
  • Perhaps the real benefit of the current natural gas situation is not that we’ve found energy salvation, but that the economics of natural gas are forcing the closure of coal fired power plants.  By the time we figure out natural gas isn’t the fuel of the future, at least we won’t be falling back on coal.

Of course all of that would be irrelevant if we didn’t have the option of a better fuel.  Solar electricity gives us a real alternative to fuel oil, natural gas and coal-powered electricity.


  1. […] you get what you need.  After we decided that we weren’t going to hook up to the natural gas pipeline, effectively making this an all-electric house, what we needed is the best possible way to use […]

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