We should expand drilling for natural gas in areas where it can be transported via a pipeline to the US. The primary uses of natural gas should be reserved to:
- Electricity generation — cleaner and reduced GHG compared to today’s coal. It is also the best solution for peak demand. The most important role of natural gas in the U.S. energy policy is to offset instabilities in power generation by renewables like wind and solar. As the quantity and diversity of unstable renewables increases, their supply variation will be lower and the need for natural gas as a peak supply filler will be reduced.
- Industry – where it is required as a chemical component. It will take a long time to develop “new chemistry” that will not be dependent on oil and natural gas.
- Home use, especially heating to replace oil.
Worldwide natural gas production will peak just as oil, most probably shortly after oil. Therefore, we should be very careful about over expanding our use of natural gas. Also, natural gas is likely to stay significantly more expensive than coal for the foreseeable future. Every new gas powered plant should be built with possible conversion to coal in mind (when we learn to capture GHG). It will be essential for future U.S. competitiveness.
We need to eliminate oil as a home heating fuel:
- Stage 1 — In states that have not yet done so, ban the use of oil based home heaters in new house construction.
- Stage 2 — a replacement program for existing oil heaters. It can be very costly to replace current home oil based systems and if the other programs for energy independence and global warming are successful, this stage can simply be done by regular market attrition forces as old heaters age. The cost may be prohibitive and it may be better to wait. This stage should remain on hold pending the success of the other oil use reduction programs.
- Longer term — we may consider replacing natural gas based home heating with electrical heating from renewable sources. At this point in the energy crisis and given the current cost structure of the different methods, this idea should be frozen and re-examined in 10 years. One immediate exception — water heating by residential solar systems.
Limit the import of LNG to the U.S. There are many reasons for discouraging the growth in use of LNG:
- LNG is imported from the same countries where oil is coming from. We do not want to simply change the variety of our dependency. It is vital to our future security and economic viability to stop funding the Oil (or LNG) producing countries. There could be some (import source) exceptions but the trend should not be encouraged. We should not replace one addiction with another. It is in our national interest to “dry up” the Middle East oil and gas producers.
- We should have enough natural gas if we follow the policies in this paper and not over expand the use of natural gas.
- It will further encourage drilling for natural gas within the continental U.S. and the nearby sea shelf.