According to Immelt [CEO of Big Wind provider General Electric], having natural gas as a backup power source when the wind doesn’t blow makes it easier to sell wind turbines, not harder:
“We look at it as a big driver of sustainability … Gas working with wind or other renewables is also allowing for renewables to be more economic.”
Immelt’s comments echo those of the Solar Energy Industries Association, which says “gas and renewables complement each other very nicely.” Along the same lines, a Colorado Energy Office report notes power plants that run on natural gas “can be brought on and offline and dispatched faster” than other sources, making more room on the grid for “intermittent sources such as wind and solar … which will further improve air quality, improve human health and reduce environmental impacts.” Or, as the clean energy advocates at the Breakthrough Institute have said, “gas is really good for renewables.”Based on what we know from the people who actually build wind farms and solar arrays – the people who make renewable energy happen, instead of just talking about it – ending natural gas development in America will not help renewables continue to grow. In fact, John Hanger, the former head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and a Democrat who is currently running for governor, has noted that banning hydraulic fracturing would undermine renewable energy and increase carbon emissions by reviving demand for electricity from other fossil fuels.
Last year, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions reached an 18-year low. In fact, our nation is cutting emissions four times faster than what was proposed in the cap-and-trade legislation that failed to pass Congress a few years ago (despite the support of GE’s Immelt and a broad spectrum of environmental groups). According to the EIA, the biggest factor was the availability and affordability of natural gas. That simply would not have been possible without using hydraulic fracturing in deep shale formations to dramatically boost domestic natural gas production.
Environmentalists who care about environmental outcomes have welcomed this news, and even though they remain critics of the oil and gas industry, they don’t want to ban the technology that helped to cut carbon emissions faster than the failed cap-and-trade bill ever could have aspired to. Groups like Food & Water Watch, however, seem only interested in running campaigns that could actually come at the expense of environmental outcomes. In short, they are the kind of environmentalists who are so extreme they attack other environmentalists for not being extreme enough.