I have been watching a lot of Washington DC area buses recently. For a variety of reasons, the ones that are painted in green jungle motifs or displaying large signs indicating “This Bus Running On Clean Natural Gas” fascinate me.
Today I noticed a bus that had an even more obvious advertisement for methane – sometimes I just feel like avoiding the industry’s official marketing term “natural gas” – that referenced a web site titled Cleanair.org.
Though I kind of knew I would be disappointed, I thought that it would be worth visiting any site advocating clean air. After all, I love to breathe at least as much as the next person. As a biker, hiker, swimmer, and kayaker, I can safely say that I have probably sucked in more than my share of air during the past 48 years. As an advocate for an emissions-free power source that is clean enough, safe enough and reliable enough to power a submarine, I thought there was a chance that I had found a web site with a new group of potential comrades.
Here are some of the phrases that I found as I read through Cleanair.org’s web site. On the Clean Air Council Energy Program page, there was a prominent link to Power ScorecardTM, which I assumed was a program sponsored by the Clean Air Council. (Upon later review of the page structure and URLs, it might be a separate organization called PowerScoreCard.org, but it is hard to tell.) These paragraphs can be found on the Electricity from Natural Gas page:
Natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels.
The stock of natural gas, like other fossil-based fuels, is limited and is therefore not a renewable resource. The combustion of natural gas produces only a fraction of the nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions of oil and coal, and also results in essentially no particulate matter or sulfur dioxide emissions. Natural gas therefore becomes an attractive “transition” fuel, as the energy supply moves away from polluting sources such as coal and nuclear sources and towards cleaner, renewable technologies.
Natural gas can be used as a fuel in conventional steam boiler generators, like other fossil fuels. However, new technologies using natural gas as their primary fuel are far more efficient than older combustion technologies. New state of the art combined cycle plants reduce fossil fuel use by as much as 40 percent.
There are some interesting phrases there. How many of you would feel so good about the idea that gas “produces only a fraction” of the nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide of oil and coal if you knew that the “fraction” was somewhere between 2/3 and 4/5 depending on the source of the gas? Does the fact that fuel oil can be used more efficiently than “natural gas” in exactly the same kinds of combined cycle plants change your view of the accuracy of the statement? The efficiency improvement comes from the fact that liquid fuel pumps use less parasitic power than gas compressors.
Compare the nice words above about gas and its ability to transition to “cleaner, renewable technologies” (words taken almost verbatim from the numerous works of Amory Lovins dating back to the mid 1970s) and the following words about nuclear power from Electricity from Nuclear Power:
Some of the most serious impacts linked to the generation of electricity on land can also be attributed to nuclear plants. Whereas the amount of solid wastes generated at nuclear plants is relatively small, these radioactive wastes pose health risks that exceed that of any other source of electricity. It is quite possible that these radioactive wastes will be stored for a century or more at existing nuclear plant sites, a prospect that may preclude any future re-uses of these contaminated lands.
A major failure in a nuclear power plant’s cooling systems can create a nuclear meltdown, where fuel rods melt within a matter of seconds. The heat from the uncontrolled reaction can melt everything it comes into contact with. Catastrophic accidents could injur or kill thousands of people.
The risk of this type of catastrophic accident, and the subsequent release of massive quantities of radioactive materials, carries severe consequences for all forms of life.
Note: The above is a quote from PowerScoreCard.org and most definitely does not represent my own views on the subject.
This language is amazingly slanted and emotionally charged. However, it is not surprising when one reads through the list of sponsors for the site:
- Environmental Defense
- The Izaak Walton League
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- The NW Energy Coalition
- Pace University Energy Project
- The Union of Concerned Scientists
So, any thoughts about who might be financial contributors to the various organizations that have contributed to this piece of propaganda?