Full Title: Rhetoric vs. Reality: The Myth of “Renewable Natural Gas” for Building Decarbonization
Author(s): Sasan Saadat, Matt Vespa, Mark Kresowik
Publisher(s): Earthjustice, Sierra Club
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
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Policymakers seeking to cut emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuels are increasingly examining energy use within buildings, which account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions globally. One of the largest drivers of these emissions is the burning of fossil fuels like gas for home heating, hot water, and cooking. In 2018, carbon emissions from U.S. buildings increased 10% due to growth in these uses alone.
Gas utilities, which rely on maintaining and expanding fuel delivery infrastructure to buildings to generate revenue, view electrification as an existential crisis. The industry’s response has been to pitch fossil gas alternatives (“FGAs”) – often marketed as “renewable” natural gas (“RNG”) – as an alternative to building electrification. The argument goes that existing gas infrastructure can continue to operate by replacing today’s fuel with a range of biologically and synthetically derived non-fossil gaseous fuels.
This report examines the potential for FGAs to decarbonize buildings and refutes the claim that FGAs are a viable alternative to building electrification.