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New Report Shows 'Natural Gas Increasingly Becoming an Unnecessary Bridge to Nowhere'
By SUN DAY Campaign
Setting a new lopsided quarterly record, renewable sources (i.e., wind, solar, biomass and hydropower) outpaced—in fact, swamped—natural gas by a factor of more than 70:1 for new electrical generating capacity placed in-service during the first three months of calendar year 2016.
According to the latest just-released monthly Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, nine new "units" of wind provided 707 megawatts (MW), followed by 44 units of solar (522 MW), 9 units of biomass (33 MW) and 1 unit of hydropower (29 MW). By comparison, only two new units of natural gas (18 MW) came on line. There was no new capacity reported for the quarter from coal, oil, nuclear power or geothermal steam.
Further, solar (75 MW), wind (72 MW) and biomass (33 MW) accounted for 100 percent of new generating capacity reported by FERC for just the month of March. Solar and wind were the only sources of new capacity in January as well.
Renewable energy sources now account for 18.11 percent of total available installed generating capacity in the U.S.: water—8.58 percent, wind—6.39 percent, biomass—1.43 percent, solar—1.38 percent and geothermal steam—0.33 percent. For perspective, when FERC issued its very first "Energy Infrastructure Update" in December 2010, renewable sources accounted for just 13.71 percent.
Moreover, the share of total available installed generating capacity now provided by non-hydro renewables (9.53 percent) not only exceeds that of conventional hydropower (8.58 percent) but is also greater than that from either nuclear power (9.17 percent) or oil (3.83 percent).*
"While often touted as being a 'bridge fuel,' natural gas is increasingly becoming an unnecessary bridge to nowhere," noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "As renewables continue to rapidly expand their share of the nation's electrical generation, it's becoming clear that natural gas will eventually join coal, oil and nuclear power as fuels of the past."
* Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Electrical production per MW of available capacity (i.e., capacity factor) for renewables is often lower than that for fossil fuels and nuclear power. According to the most recent data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), actual net electrical generation from utility-scale renewable energy sources totaled about 14.3 percent of total U.S. electrical production as of January 31, 2016 (see: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly). However, this figure understates renewables' actual contribution because neither EIA nor FERC fully accounts for all electricity generated by distributed, smaller-scale renewable energy sources such as rooftop solar (e.g., FERC acknowledges that its data just reflect "plants with nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater").
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.