Natural Gas: Bridge to Renewable Sources of Energy

There is no doubt that the U.S. needs to transition from a fossil fuel dependent economy to one that is based on renewable energy sources for  a variety of reasons, primarily having to do with our collective responsibility to be good environmental stewards, which in turn provides the added benefit of expanding the overall energy sector of the U.S. economy.  However, some pundits may argue that there needs to be some sort of bridge to go from a fossil fuel dependent economy to one that relies more and more on renewable energy sources.  The question, therefore, is what sort of "bridge" needs to be built to go from fossil fuels to renewables? Clearly, such experts assume that it is simply too difficult, if not impossible to drastically reduce reliance on fossil fuels in favor of renewables.

One of those experts T-Boone Pickens highlights how the U.S. needs to decrease its reliance on foreign oil. As such, he addresses the issue of energy and the environment from the standpoint of how dependency on foreign oil is a national security issue. As such, one of the things he proposes is increasing the U.S. portfolio of wind energy, but also to use “America’s natural gas to replace imported oil as a transportation fuel in addition to its other uses in power generation, chemicals, etc. We should continue to pursue the promise of electric or hydrogen powered vehicles, but America needs to address transportation fuel today. Fortunately, we are blessed with an abundance of clean, cheap, domestic natural gas.”

While it is true that natural gas is a domestic energy source that is relative abundant and cheap compared to other renewable sources like biofuels, does it necessarily follow that it is the best "bridge" to transition to as much as possible to an economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels?  After all, natural gas may be cheap today, but since it is an exhaustible resource, at some point its prices will rise to a point where it is cheaper to go with the clean, renewable sources. In fact, although natural gas is cheap today, some indications are that it will become more expensive in the future and not as abundant in the U.S. as “The California Energy Commissions says that with rising demand for natural gas (accompanied by high oil prices) more than 15 percent of our natural gas will be imported from countries other than Canada and Mexico by 2025.”

Consequently, natural gas may in the short-term be a bridge to renewable sources of energy depending on how long one defines "short-term." It is clear that within the next 15 years it is not going to be the most cost-effective energy source. As a result, investments in renewable energy should happen now to reduce reliance on fossil fuels as a whole to avoid price volatility that is common with fossil fuels like natural gas.

Photo Credit: Taken by Adam E. Moreira