Collision CourseReport: How Imported Liquified Natural Gas Will Undermine Clean Energy in California
February 25th, 2008
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California, the world’s twelfth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, stands at a crossroads. At a time of unprecedented public support — and urgent need—for aggressive, responsible action on global warming, plans are afoot to quietly shackle the state to a new dependence on polluting fossil fuels. Instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the state pursues policies that will squander billions of dollars on importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from overseas and prevent any meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
LNG’s high lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, severe environmental impacts, and staggering investment costs are at odds with California’s commitment to clean energy. Numerous studies demonstrate that investments in cleaner sources of energy, along with improving the efficiency with which we use it, can drive California towards a healthy, prosperous economy. Importing LNG, however, contradicts California’s environmental priorities and does not fit within this framework.California has enough financial resources to support either new fossil fuels or renewable energy, not both. Furthermore, California can choose either to burn more fossil fuels or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but not both.
This report explains the conflict between LNG and clean energy efforts, as well as LNG’s greenhouse gas impacts in California and around the world, with the following findings:
• New research demonstrates that the greenhouse gas emissions from LNG, when considering the entire lifecycle of production, transportation, and combustion, can be as bad as coal.
• Building new fossil fuel infrastructure to supply LNG binds California to a multi-billion dollar investment.This investment requires a minimum 20-year commitment of fuel purchases by utilities, and likely longer. LNG is not a transition fuel to renewables; rather, it will heighten our dependence on foreign fossil fuels for at least another generation.
• Sufficient natural gas supply exists in North America to meet California’s declining natural gas usage for the next several decades. This fuel burns cleaner and is more reliable than imported LNG. We should not lock the state to a new foreign fossil fuel by means of false scare tactics – propagated by the energy industry – claiming that California needs new sources of natural gas. Responsible and efficient use of North American supplies, while cleaner alternatives are developed,is the best course of action.
• Despite a state Energy Action Plan promoting conservation and renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, California’s regulatory agencies alternatively favor increased natural gas dependence.
• While California has an ambitious policy of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020, the state is far behind in achieving these goals.
• LNG will compete directly with, and likely undermine, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in California.
• Meeting the state’s renewable and energy efficiency goals requires that all additional electric generation built between now and 2020, including replacing aging generators, come from renewable sources.
• The scale of financial commitment implied by LNG is similar in size to what is required to meet the state's clean energy goals, but LNG carries much higher environmental, financial, national security, and public safety risks.