More than gas is needed to control GHGs, NARUC committee told

Growing natural gas use has clearly helped reduce US carbon emissions, but it can’t be expected to bring greenhouse gases to desired lower levels, three experts told two National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ committees on Feb. 4.

“The question is not whether gas is more effective than cap-and-trade or other carbon pricing programs, but what we can do in total to achieve the goal of not allowing global temperatures to rise 2° C. by 2035,” said Kelly Speakes-Bachman, a member of Maryland’s Public Service Commission.

Gas is responsible for a 31% drop in GHG emissions in Maryland the eight other Mid-Atlantic and New England states that comprise the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), she said during a panel discussion at NARUC’s 2013 Winter Meeting.

“But it may not be enough,” Speakes-Bachman continued. “RGGI’s allowances also are producing economic as well as environmental benefits, and other steps may be needed. Basically, I’m saying all-of-the-above. If we’re going to focus on GHG reductions, we need to set our goals accordingly.”

More advanced nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) research is needed to accelerate GHG reductions, added Armand Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force. “We need to get CCS costs down to about the level of scrubbers, which China is finally adopting,” he told NARUC’s Gas and Energy & Environment committees. “One of the ironies of gas’s predominance in carbon reduction is that it’s scaring a lot of research investment from CCS and advanced nuclear.”

Set targets

The US could export CCS technology to other countries if it decides to become that technology’s leader, Cohen said. “But it has to get serious about R&D,” he maintained. “A lot of successful technological innovation has come from setting targets. That’s how we’re reducing pollution from cars. But it’s not the only way.”

Many manufacturers have switched to gas from coal because of its low price, said Francis O’Sullivan, executive director of MIT’s Energy Sustainability Challenge Program. That price is making some producers shut wells in and discouraging more development, he added.

“The sooner we see some price stability—$5 gas is about equal to $30 oil—the sooner we’ll see some stability,” O’Sullivan said. “But it’s not certain whether the switch to gas from coal can be sustained in a moderate price scenario.”

Matthew Most, vice-president of demand development and policy at Encana Natural Gas Inc., said GHG emissions have been dropping since 2007. “It reached an inflection point around 2011, when gas prices dropped to the $2 range and gas began to take a bigger power generation market share,” he said. “We’ve seen announced retirements by 2025 of about 50 Gw out of the 250 Gw coal fleet.”

Gas penetration into transportation presents further GHG reduction opportunities, he told the committees. Encana Corp.’s oil and gas divisions have begun to run more of their rigs with gas instead of diesel fuel, and the company is involved in a pilot train project from Alberta’s oil sands at Fort McMurray, Most said. “Unlike what the Waxman-Markey bill proposed, these emissions reductions are being accomplished at low or no costs,” he indicated.

Costs and climate

Some state utility regulators at the committees’ joint session clearly were concerned about carbon reduction programs’ potential costs to manufacturers, businesses, and consumers.

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry T. Smitherman, who also chairs NARUC’s Gas Committee and who organized the session, said that manufacturers expressed concern when the US House passed Reps. Henry J. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey’s (D-Mass.) bill which would have established a domestic cap-and-trade program in 2007.

Paul J. Roberti, a member of Rhode Island’s public utilities commission, said the budget for energy efficiency in the state now exceeds what is spent for pipeline safety there.

“We’re the ones—not [the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission]—who face consumers when they can’t pay their bills,” he observed.

But Jeanne M. Fox, a member of New Jersey’s public utilities board who chairs NARUC’s Energy & Environment Committee, said Superstorm Sandy and other unusual weather events during 2012 in her state show that more serious work needs to be done to address climate change.

Contact Nick Snow at

Related Articles

EIA: US oil output fell 50,000 b/d in May

07/07/2015 Total US crude oil production dropped 50,000 b/d in May compared with April and is expected to continue falling through early 2016 before growth re...

BLM approves ROW for Elko gas pipeline expansion project

07/07/2015 The US Bureau of Land Management’s Tuscarora, Nev., field office signed a decision record approving a right-of-way for Paiute Pipeline Co.’s (PPC) ...

Obama urged by IPAA president to lift ban on US crude exports

07/07/2015 Commending the administration for its actions allowing some condensate to be exported as a petroleum product, Independent Petroleum Association of ...

AER shuts in 16 Murphy Oil sites in Peace River region for noncompliance

07/07/2015 Alberta Energy Regulator said it has shut in or partially shut in 16 sites operated by Murphy Oil Co. Ltd. in the Peace River region. The sites wer...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX, Brent oil prices take dive on world oil oversupply concerns

07/07/2015 US light, sweet crude oil prices plummeted more than $4/bbl on the New York market July 6, marking a 5-month low, while Brent crude oil prices on t...

WAFWA: Aerial survey finds lesser prairie chicken population grew

07/06/2015 A recent range-wide aerial survey found the lesser prairie chicken population rose 25% from 2014 to 2015, the Western Association of Fish & Wil...

Buru awarded onshore Canning licenses

07/06/2015 Buru Energy Ltd., Perth, and Mitsubish Corp. have been granted two production licenses for Ungani oil field in the onshore Canning basin of Western...

Cenovus sells royalty business for $3.3 billion

07/06/2015 Cenovus Energy Inc., Calgary, inked an agreement to sell its wholly owned subsidiary Heritage Royalty LP to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for gros...

CERI: Energy, operational efficiencies possible in Canadian oil, gas

07/06/2015 Measures can be taken by operators in the expanding resource-intensive Canadian oil and gas sector to improve both energy efficiency and operationa...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected