Texas Electricity & Obama’s Clean Energy Agenda

Posted on Posted in Green/Renewable Energy, Texas Electricity News

President Obama’s been crossing the country and talking about the importance of Green Energy technology and how it is the future of America. He is touting it as a solution to America’s job problem, it’s energy problem in regards to a dependence of foreign oil, as well as hallmark to us improving as an environmentally friendly country. All of these would and are great things, but there are a lot of outstanding questions in regards to any potential moves and expansion made towards Green Technology, particularly in regards to Texas Electricity. The first question really needs to be: What constitutes Green Energy?

Traditionally, when someone says Green Energy, the first that comes to their mind is solar power, or wind powered energy. Which is fair, those are the greenest of the green technologies. But is that the only things being developed as part of the President’s proposed Aegis of green energy? To Texans, specifically, where does Natural Gas fall into the picture? We’re curious about this for a number of reasons. For starters, natural gas and the market prices of natural gas are what set the market rates for electricity in Texas. Which makes things interesting considering the debate that has been raging recently over the technological advancements in mining for natural gas in deposits of Shale.

Recent technology changes have allowed us to mine for natural gas in areas that were previously not financially viable or efficient. We can now use a chemical, water, and pressure based combination to “frack” rocks and siphon out the natural gas deposits between the rock cracks. Now where this all starts to get interesting is when you take into account whether or not this new ability to mine for natural gas deposits will be part of the Obama administration’s Green Energy initiatives.

What makes natural gas so compelling is that it would immediately achieve one of the goals President Obama has laid out about his green energy initiative: it would drastically reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil. Taking into account shale reserves, there is at least six times more natural gas available for mining than there was just a decade ago thanks to new technology. Additionally, natural gas burns substantially cleaner than oil or coal, which makes it a relatively green technology. Furthermore, current pipelines used to transport oil can be modified relatively easily to move natural gas. Natural gas can be used to power vehicles, and it is currently used to power most of the electricity generating plants in the Texas electricity market. And a final kicker? Long term, natural gas quite probably will end up being cheaper than wind or solar power.

The Fracking process is now without it’s potential drawbacks and controversy. Environmentalists say that not enough is yet known about the side effects of Fracking for natural gas, and there are also accusations that the process can contaminate groundwater sources and reservoirs, potentially contaminating drinking water. Some politicians are outraged that there is a lack of regulation over the process now.

Given that many environmentalists aren’t on board with new natural gas mining in shale deposits dampens the chances that it will be adopted under the umbrella of the President’s initiatives as a Green Energy. Which is interesting, because natural gas is fantastically more environmentally friendly than coal or oil. However, it were adopted, America could be looking at a relatively cheap energy transition, and the natural deposits located in the US, particularly in Texas, would give us energy independence and actually likely turn us into an exporter of natural gas to other countries. Texas electricity would likely benefit from even lower electricity prices, increased jobs, and economic security that our state will remain the energy capital of this country well into the future. The only question is whether or not natural gas will be seen by the right people as “green.” Fingers crossed.

5 thoughts on “Texas Electricity & Obama’s Clean Energy Agenda

  1. This is unbelievably cheery.

    There is a lot of uncertainty about the harms of fracking. Last month a Cornell study found that if you factor in the methane leaks from fracking, the long term carbon emissions are comparable to that of coal. http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/04/11/frack-is-shale-natural-gas-worse-for-the-climate-than-coal/ This study is not conclusive and very controversial; the main problem seems to be that natural gas companies don’t release enough information to reach a conclusion. But if it’s true, then basically it would worsen — not improve the problem.

    Other analysis suggests a 50% reduction in carbon footprint http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/05/25/208173/is-natural-gas-cleaner-than-coal/ The important thing is that we need more research and more transparency before the benefits of natural gas can be promoted.

    You can see yourself that green plans are only about 5% different from mixed plans. so there doesn’t seem to be a real cost advantage.

    furthermore, investment in green energy is better for the local economies. One analysis from University of Massachusetts found: “Clean-energy investments create 16.7 jobs for every $1 million in spending. Spending on fossil fuels, by contrast, generates 5.3 jobs per $1 million in spending”
    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/06/clean_energy.html

    1. I’ve argued with countless greenies on internet blogs, like you Robert, that I have lost the will to try and convince them that they’re wrong. They don’t listen to actual facts, they tend to use weak back of the envelope calculations that leave out countering forces, and typically they have no scientific or engineering background.

      So, because you posted 3 links to obviously biased organizations, I will give 1 link to the other side so people who read this blog can at least be totally informed.

      http://www.energyindepth.org

      I will say that I am a Petroleum Engineer for a mid-size independent oil/gas company that operates in both gas shale and tight sands. I have designed and fracked numerous wells in my career, and I currently manage the reserves for the company I work for. Virtually all wells (millions) have been fracked since about 1950. Its not a novel concept. Most of these groundwater “contaminations” you see are preexisting conditions caused by natural seepage from shallow zones. I can get into the specifics, but the link above makes it easier for dumb people to understand. Its a very similar public reaction as seeing oil/tar wash up on the beach, seeing an offshore drilling rig on the horizon, and attributing the washup to the rig, when in reality that oil/tar was naturally seeped from the ocean floor and the drilling rig is chasing it. If they hit the right zone, and produce that oil, less of it will washup.

      Also, the gas-shale reserves being touted by the EIA and other sources are a by-product of the leasing process and stock valuation of oil companies. I will admit that most of these numbers are over-exaggerated in order to drum up investment in an otherwise meek economic period. I’m not saying that the reserves value is wrong, but you have to pay attention to the wording. Typically, they will say “resource” value, which is completely different than “reserve” value. Reserves are economic, resources are not. So by saying there is x Trillion cubic feet of natual gas resource in gas-shale, they don’t say how much of that is economic to drill for. To recover all that gas-shale, you would need the price of natural gas to at least triple in cost.

      1. Hi, there.

        I spent Thursday reading a 65 page analysis about natural gas by a fellow at the post carbon Institute.http://www.scribd.com/doc/55274994/PCI-Report-Nat-Gas-Future It came out a few weeks ago.

        The most interesting thing about this analysis is that it described how exaggerated the claims are of natural gas supplies (that was news to me). According to this analyst, even if you believe the most optimistic assumptions of the natural gas industry about the supply, it is unlikely to have much of an impact on our energy needs. (Read page 30-40 of this report). I highly recommend this report for more information.

        Another surprising conclusion of this report (to me at least) is that requiring old coal plants to install scrubbers and other pollution control devices could provide more bang for the buck than increasing use of natural gas.

        I looked briefly at the website you mentioned. It looks like a glitzy site more inclined to showcase graphics and web design than to provide honest information. Perhaps you could point me to one document in particular?

        With regard to bias, I don’t know what to say; so industry people are less biased than academics? (So maybe we should have trusted the tobacco industry when they told us that cigarettes haven’t been proven to cause cancer?) I’m not suggesting that natural gas people are like cigarette people, but you can’t assume that specialized knowledge about one aspect of the industry gives you the perspective that is wide enough to understand larger problems.

        I too am weary of talking to industry people who are convinced that the solution to the climate change problem involves ensuring the continued use of their specific product. For those who develop products with significant carbon footprints, the presumption should be AGAINST their product until they can demonstrate the safety of their product and that the long term impact of their use doesn’t contribute to climate change. I guess I don’t understand why industry people think the presumption should be that their product is considered safe unless proven otherwise. Industry people have not really offered a plausible plan for reducing carbon emissions to 450 ppm (or less) by 2050.

        I genuinely hope that the natural gas industry finds a way to minimize the methane leaks during the fracking process. I do not deny that we are stuck with natural gas for the next decade at least, but if renewable power is already competitive to consumers, why should they choose a product which is NOT 100% renewable?

  2. (sorry, I worded one paragraph inelegantly):

    Another surprising conclusion of the report (to me ) at least is that installing scrubbers and other pollution controls on older coal power plants was a more cost-effective means to reduce GHG than switching from coal to natural gas. Using natural gas as a bridge fuel is a method to reduce carbon emissions over the status quo, but it is not the ONLY method (and may not be the most cost-effective method).

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