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Overreliance on Natural Gas: Risky for the Climate and the Economy

In last week’s State of the Union (SOTU) address, President Obama reiterated his support for climate science by unequivocally stating “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” He also should be commended for highlighting the urgency of the problem as local communities are already experiencing damaging and costly climate impacts like drought, wildfires, heat waves, and coastal flooding.

But the President’s enthusiasm for increasing natural gas production and use as an important climate solution missed the mark. And like his climate action plan speech at Georgetown University last June, the President highlighted the economic benefits of increasing U.S. natural gas production, while failing to mention the economic risks of an overreliance on natural gas. Read More

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President Obama’s State of the Union: Will Climate Change Get Left Out in the Cold?

As the president prepares to take the podium for the State of the Union speech, much of the country has just been released from the grip of the dreaded polar vortex, single digit temperatures, wind chills and snow, and shortages of home heating oil in the Midwest and Northeast. Does he dare remind Congress and the country of the Climate Action Plan he unveiled this past summer, delivered on a hot June day? Read More

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Frozen: The Cost of Electricity Soars as Wires and Pipelines Fail to Meet Demand

The cold weather has pushed demand for energy very high. In our energy markets, demand rising faster than supply translates into higher prices. Electricity prices in the Mid-Atlantic and natural gas in the Northeast are showing this today, and this isn’t new or unique.  Supplies to meet demand are limited by the capacity of the delivery systems. Read More

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Scientific Advice for the New EPA Carbon Emissions Standards: Let’s Clear the Air

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published proposed new standards limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions from new electricity generating power plants using coal or natural gas. Allegations of secrecy and political interference in science began to surface even before the proposal was released. So do these allegations have any merit? Read More

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Is the Water Safe? The West Virginia Chemical Spill and the Importance of Scientists’ Speaking to the Media

When news broke last week that West Virginia’s Elk River had been contaminated with the coal-processing chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), attention quickly turned to the scientists who could help the public understand what was at stake. With the spill just upstream of a treatment plant supplying water to 300,000 West Virginians, the questions were pressing: What was known about MCHM? Is my health and that of my family and pets at risk? Should I worry about the odor? These questions and many more arose from citizens, reporters, and decision makers. But as the event unfolded, we saw that scientists weren’t always given a chance to answer them. Read More

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New UCS Report: Companies Can Anonymously Influence Climate Policy Through Their Business and Trade Associations

Today we release our new report, Tricks of the Trade: How Companies Influence Climate Policy Through Business and Trade Associations. In the report we found that many companies choose not to be transparent about their affiliations with trade and business associations, even when the information is publicly available. In addition, we found that when companies did choose to disclose their trade group board seats, many claimed to disagree with their associations’ positions on climate change, raising questions about who trade groups are actually representing on climate policy. Read More

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Even as Coal Use Declines, Most States Are Still Dependent on Coal Imports

The use of coal to produce electricity in the United States has been declining in recent years. Yet for most states still heavily dependent on coal-fired power, the cost of importing coal continues to be a drain on local economies. According to a new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis, 37 states were net importers of coal in 2012, paying a total of $19.4 billion to import 433 million tons of coal from other states and even some foreign countries. Instead of sending billions of ratepayer dollars out of those states year after year, consumers would be better served by investing more in local renewable energy development and energy efficiency measures. Read More

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How Disclosure Changed a Conversation on Fracking (And Why that Matters)

Last week, I moderated a session on fracking at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The event went as we planned with seven speakers presenting their work on unconventional oil and gas development, but after the formal talks when we opened a panel discussion with questions from the audience, something unexpected happened. Read More

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Holding Big Carbon Accountable: Response to Severin Borenstein

Respected UC Berkeley economist Dr. Severin Borenstein released a blog yesterday that included at least one point we can agree on: fossil fuels are cheap. But Borenstein missed the boat in dismissing significant new research that traces 63 percent of heat-trapping emissions to just 90 institutions, including oil giants Exxon-Mobil, BP, and California-based Chevron, suggesting that holding fossil fuel producers accountable is a “copout.”  Read More

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Modest Carbon Price Will Significantly Lower Power Sector Emissions

Part three of a three-part blog series.

Last week some colleagues and I published an article in the Electricity Journal showing that almost 60 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generators could be candidates for closure based on their poor economic profile relative to competing cleaner options like natural gas and wind. We also found that a modest carbon price of $20/ton of CO2 would more than double that figure to nearly 138 GW, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 745.7 million tons. You can read more about our analysis here and in blog posts by my colleagues Jeff Deyette and Steve Clemmer. Read More

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