Natural Gas NOW
New Jersey air is getting cleaner thanks to natural gas and those Garden Staters who like it ought to be supporting more pipelines to continue the progress.
Watching and listening as some New Jersey residents do everything they can stop new pipelines in their backyard is a frustrating experience. They’re growing their use of natural gas every day and generating ever more of their electricity from the stuff. Yet, they say they want no more of it (well, a few say that). Their air is rapidly getting cleaner as a result of natural gas being piped in to make that electricity, but they protest the pipelines that make it all possible. This, of course, is the kind of anti-logic that counts for environmentalism today, but it makes no sense whatsoever. New Jersey needs more pipelines.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) the facts on what’s happening in New Jersey. Here, for example, is the trend with New Jersey natural gas consumption for residential use:
The red is the calculated trend line with natural gas by residences roughly doubling between 1967 and 2015. Residential use, though, is just one component of natural gas consumption. Here’s where the real growth is taking place — in electricity generation:
Natural gas use has more than doubled in this instance since just 1997 — in a mere 18 years — and the big increase has come with the shale revolution. The availability of inexpensive Marcellus Shale gas has immeasurably benefited the Garden State with financial savings, as I noted here. But, the benefits are perhaps even larger on the environmental side, as this chart from New Jersey DEP illustrates with respect to air quality:
The single largest source of sulfur dioxide air contamination, of course, typically comes from burning coal to make electricity. That natural gas availability made it possible to generate electricity a different way; with natural gas that generates a whole lot less SO2. The competition from natural gas has made this happen, as even the New Jersey Sierra Club indirectly acknowledges in this Bloomberg story:
Coal for power generation has been losing market share to gas as tougher emissions standards and slowing demand pressure the fuel. New Jersey gets less than five percent of its power from coal, down from one-fifth in the 1990s, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Most of its coal-fired plants have already been closed or converted to natural gas.
“What’s important is that this is a major step forward for the entire region,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who said the announced shutdowns would leave the state with just one coal plant. “Within a couple of years there will not be a coal facility from Trenton through to Maine and from Jersey City all the way to Buffalo.”
“The sustained low prices of natural gas have put economic pressure on these plants for some time,” Bill Levis, president and chief operating officer of PSEG Power, said in the statement. “In that context, we could not justify the significant investment required to upgrade these plants to meet the new reliability standards.”
Weirdly, though, the Sierra Club doesn’t want any more conversions and opposes each and every new pipeline into the state, despite the increased gas use and resulting cleaner air. Well, it’s not so weird if you understand the Sierra Club’s mission which is de-growth in nature and purely ideological, not factual. Meanwhile, the demand grows and pipeline capacity is falling behind, as this comparison of natural gas for electric generation compared to pipeline capacity into the state illustrates:
Pipeline capacity (derived from EIA data) has grown far slower than natural gas use for electricity generation. Yet, it’s those pipelines that have made possible everything the Sierra Club crows about with respect to cleaner air. Savvy Garden Staters who are not co-opted by the Sierra Club’s theatrics will quickly grasp what’s at stake here. It’s nothing less than the cleaner air they breathe today thanks to natural gas and the pipelines that deliver it. New Jersey needs more pipelines, not less.