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Portland needs cleaner transit, but electrification isn’t the answer

Guest Opinion in the July 13, 2018, Oregonian 

Jessica Vega Pederson is right: it is time for Tri-Met to continue its tradition as a leader in our community by eliminating their diesel fleet (“Portland needs TriMet to prioritize electric buses,” July 4). Unfortunately, she and many others get it wrong on how to get it done. Relying on overpriced and underperforming electric bus technology will only set us back in our goal of eliminating harmful diesel emissions. We should refocus on natural gas-powered buses, and explore operating those buses on recovered methane — called ‘renewable natural gas’ — from Portland’s wastewater treatment facility (“Portland plans to turn ‘poop to power,” April 20).

There is no way around it: Oregon has a diesel problem. Transportation is Oregon’s largest source of greenhouse gas emission. Diesel-powered trucks and buses make up a third of the on-road transportation emissions. Not only do these emissions harm our region’s climate goals, but they are toxic pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, and many dangerous health conditions. We are all affected by diesel pollution, but especially the most vulnerable populations of children, elderly and the sick.

The best place to start in solving this problem is by replacing the 700 diesel buses that zigzag through the heart of our metro area. The conversation is already occurring, but it has largely focused on one limiting question: How soon can we electrify the bus fleet?

Los Angeles Metro was faced with this same problem. The LA Basin in the ’90s had some of the worst air quality problems in the world, and their 2,500-diesel bus fleet was a large contributor. Their solution: move to near-zero emission natural gas engines fueled by renewable natural gas, which offers up to 115 percent reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and 99.9 percent air quality pollutant reductions. Their fleet is no longer a significant polluter, and they have saved their customers money on fuel and maintenance costs at the same time. This is a home run, and Portland should take note.

The time to act is now. Every day we wait for electric bus technology to be ready is a day that we make our air quality problems worse. Natural gas buses are proven, affordable and ready to tackle our air quality and climate issues today.

Connor Reiten
Director of Policy and Operations
NW Alliance for Clean Transporation

 

GUEST BLOG: Coming Solar Eclipse Further Proves that Renewables Need Natural Gas

Anti-fossil fuel activists like 350.org’s Bill McKibben often pretend the United States can run on 100 percent renewable energy without the use of any traditional fuel sources. McKibben recently wrote in Rolling Stone that “the sundown problem is being solved fast, as batteries are able to store the energy from the morning sun and the wind from a gusty evening to keep the power running overnight.”

McKibben’s claims simply aren’t true though, and preparations for next week’s total solar eclipse illustrate this cold, hard fact.

Because storage technology to allow for solar power to stand alone — even during a brief loss of sunlight — doesn’t currently exist, the solar industry has been actively preparing for how to mitigate the issue in places like sunny California where that industry thrives. The solution? Natural gas.

The Power of Natural Gas in the War on Carbon Emissions

The world will benefit from reduced carbon emissions as developing and industrial countries reduce their dependence on coal and oil by gaining access to ample North American natural-gas supplies.

Natural gas has been a boon for our pocket books, the environment and our way of life. Unfortunately, it gets a bad rap from Vlad Gutman-Britten (No Washington state subsidies for fossil-fuel plants, July 16, 2017). Let’s set the record straight.

Innovative practices and technology enhancements have unlocked vast reserves of North American natural gas and oil that were previously inaccessible. Scarce and costly just ten years ago, natural gas is now abundant and inexpensive.

NWGA Releases Natural Gas Facts Booklet

Natural Gas Facts

This booklet provides an overview of natural gas and the myriad of benefits that this domestic, clean, safe, low-cost and reliable energy source offers the Pacific Northwest consumers. 3.2 million regional natural gas users are enjoying its economic and environmental advantages, but expanding the use and applications of natural gas will help provide an economically feasible, cleaner environment for future generations.

To download and read more, click here.

April 28 Webinar: Future of Renewable Energy and Its Impact on Natural Gas Generation

  • April 28, 2017
    12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Natural Gas is Critical in the Energy Future

Jim Piro, President and CEO of Portland General Electric (PGE) was recently interviewed by the Portland Business Journal about the significant transition underway in the energy landscape. The key takeaway is that PGE is carefully and deliberately moving through it. Mr. Piro wants PGE to learn from others, not pioneer new, unproven resources and regulatory regimes. Mr. Piro also reaffirmed the critical role that natural gas must play in PGE’s generation portfolio to ensure that customers always have electricity when they need it:

 “[I]f the wind doesn’t blow for a day or so batteries can’t help you through that. Gas is needed to bridge that difference… If the lights don’t go on, customers aren’t going to worry about whether the gas is in the ground or not in the ground; they’re going to wonder why [PGE] didn’t meet their needs.”

 Not everyone is happy with PGE’s approach as indicated in a guest editorial by the Sierra Club and other Oregon environmental organizations recently published in the Oregonian. Unfortunately, the authors of the opinion piece use inflammatory language and outdated information to support their case. Their claim about “notoriously volatile” natural gas prices caught our eye and we’d like to set the record straight.

According to the to U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) natural gas prices were relatively stable from 1981 to 2000, averaging $3.95/Dekatherm (Dth) when adjusted for inflation ($2015). Gas prices during the first decade of the 21st century were indeed volatile as North America struggled to produce enough natural gas to meet growing demand. From 2001 to 2010 natural gas averaged $6.61/Dth and experienced significant volatility associated with cold and hot weather, and hurricanes that disrupted conventional supply resources.onemoretime

 All that changed with the advent of shale gas which began to come online in 2007 and reached game-changing status around 2010. The average price of natural gas from 2011 to 2015 was $3.57/Dth. In 2015, natural gas averaged $2.62/Dth. The future looks equally stable. EIA projects that natural gas prices will rise to $5/Dth ($2015) and remain there as production technologies become more efficient, quicker to come on line and better for the environment. This is a dramatic change from its 2008 price forecast.

Natural gas is an abundant, cleaner, affordable energy resource. As Mr. Piro notes, it is a vital part of enabling more renewable resources in our region and elsewhere. Without natural gas, our power supply will become less reliable and more expensive. Those are the facts.

Benefits of Direct Use of Natural Gas

For many years, energy agencies have alerted Americans to the importance of energy efficiency. A variety of tags and certifications, backed by financial incentives, encourage us to understand our equipment buying options. We know that it makes sense to spend a little more on a product so that we can save money and energy throughout its useful life.

These efforts continue to reduce per capita energy use for both natural gas and electric customers. And the more energy we save, the lower our impact on the environment.

NWGA Releases the 2016 Gas Outlook

This study, compiled by the NWGA and its members, provides a consensus industry perspective of the Pacific Northwest’s current and projected natural gas supply, demand, prices and delivery capabilities through 2026. The Pacific Northwest, in this case, includes British Columbia (BC) and the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

We have updated data in this 2016 Outlook, but most key conclusions are similar to last year. Most of the trends identified in the 2015 Outlook continue to be relevant. Where appropriate, revised analyses and updated tables/graphics provide details of what’s new.

To download the complete study click here.

Jeff Burks to Present on Economic Impacts of the Potential Washington Carbon Rule

We are excited to have Jeff Burks on hand to discuss the implementation of Washington’s Clean Air rule and the requirement for 35 or more covered firms to reduce GHG emissions. This not only has important economic implications for the covered firms but will potentially impact the cost of energy, economic output, and jobs of the entire Washington State economy. Using IMPLAN I-O model. Energy Strategies economists have constructed a 536 sector model of the Washington state economy to evaluate the economic impact of the Clean Air rule. Burks will be presenting the preliminary results of Energy Strategies’ economic impact analysis of the proposed rule. Register for the Annual Energy Conference to hear Burks presentation.

NWGA Gets a Mention in The Economist

In case you missed it, NWGA Executive Director, Dan Kirschner, was mentioned in “The Economist” last week, discussing hydraulic fracturing and the Western U.S.

So pull that February 16 issue off your bedside table and give it a read. If you aren’t a subscriber you can read the full article by clicking here.

The continued move toward more efficient production of natural gas from shale has been a big topic at recent NWGA presentations. Water can cost anywhere from $.15 to $15 a barrel to use in the production process so continued reductions in freshwater usage, either through recycling used water for reuse, utilizing waste or brackish water, or even waterless fracturing makes a lot of sense for producers.

Here’s the portion of the article that mentions Dan:

Meanwhile, the technology that kick-started the revolution marches on. Some speak excitedly of fracking that uses saline rather than fresh water, or no water at all. The industry has moved so quickly in recent years, says Dan Kirschner of the Northwest Gas Association, a trade body, that it is starting to seem odd to call shale resources “unconventional”.

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