Monday, June 28, 2010

Gas Use to Double in Next Several Decades?

The New York Times reported on a study published by the MIT Energy Initiative that resulted from a "two-year effort by 14 prominent energy experts" to study the consumption trends of natural gas in the United States. The study focused mainly on the power generation industry and suggests that natural gas consumption will increase from a 20% share to 40% in the "next several decades."  The gains will come largely at the expense of coal consumption, which makes sense in world where reducing carbon emissions is a priority. (Link to report)

The report examines the concept of gas as a "bridge fuel" to alternative fuel sources.  The reality for gas fans is the proverbial double edged sword.  The study sees gas taking share from coal over the coming decades, but it also sees that all carbon-based fuels will lose out to nuclear and renewable power after about 50 years.  


The study notes the irony that increasing wind power capacity actually does not decrease net carbon emissions because it reduces the consumption of natural gas for power generation since utilities are quicker to cut low carbon natural gas than high carbon coal because of the price difference. 

The study does address CNG in vehicles, but to a lesser degree than power generation.  The authors see vehicle fuel as an opportunity for natural gas, especially in fleet vehicles, but they don't see CNG vehicles becoming widely used by the general population.

The MIT study was funded in part by the American Clean Skies Foundation, a gas industry group, so some folks might question the results.  But the report is a comprehensive look at the energy industry from the perspective of natural gas.  Definitely not a rah-rah piece.  It's a fairly long read, but it is a comprehensive study.

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