Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted October 1, 2021
Natural gas prices have entered rarified territory due to demand outpacing production and supply, creating headwinds for the Biden administration’s emissions reduction goals and potentially impacting the energy cost savings consumers have enjoyed since the U.S. energy revolution launched more than a decade ago.
Prices in Asia Pacific (Japan-Korea) settled at $29.20 per million Btu (mmBtu) on Sept. 27 – their highest on record since 2012. Meanwhile, U.S. natural gas prices of nearly $5.50 per mmBtu at Henry Hub were relatively inexpensive compared with international ones but rose to their highest for the month since 2008. Natural gas prices like these are unusual for the fall, before there’s reason to believe the approaching winter could be particularly cold.
Posted September 29, 2021
Europe’s ongoing energy crisis (noted recently here) should give pause to U.S. policymakers who’re leading a head-long rush to a near future in which Americans’ daily lives and the U.S. economy will be virtually dependent on intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar.
We’ve made the case that dropping natural gas and oil from the U.S. energy portfolio, heavily relying on come-and-go energies, is unwise, bordering on foolishness. It’s disconnected from reality, a reality that’s playing out right now in Europe.
Posted September 15, 2021
We’ve long made the point that natural gas is the essential partner for the growth of wind and solar energy (see here, here and here). You simply must have a partnering energy source, in sufficient quantity, to fuel power generation and maintain reliability when the wind doesn’t blow and/or the sun doesn’t shine.
Just ask Europe and California. Both are experiencing conditions that make this case.
The two also underscore the flaw in policy proposals that exclude natural gas from the future energy mix – as does the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) now being debated in Congress.
Posted June 14, 2021
Among U.S. efforts to address the risks of climate change, the dramatic shift to natural gas to fuel electricity generation stands out over everything else.
That includes renewables, electric vehicles and the seemingly endless target-setting by various bodies. In terms of measurable progress, none of those has reduced greenhouse gas emissions in this country as much as increased use of natural gas for power generation.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that over the past 15 years, the shift in power generation fuel to natural gas from coal is largely responsible for 2019 sector carbon dioxide emissions that were 32% lower than those of 2005.
Posted May 25, 2021
New, independent analysis says that the U.S. can rapidly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by using natural gas as a co-fuel at coal power plants – pointing to another reason domestic natural gas is key to a cleaner future.
The analysis by Resources for the Future (RFF) outlines how EPA could foster natural gas cofiring at coal plants to reduce emissions. Authors Maya Domeshek and Dallas Burtraw write that a modest cofiring standard at coal plants can reduce carbon emissions significantly and rapidly and that adding a cofiring standard to other national electricity policies also accelerates emissions reductions.
Posted February 18, 2021
More than 4 million Texas homes and businesses have been without electricity this week as an Arctic air mass left the state coping with temperatures hovering around zero. Electricity and natural gas use spiked and rolling blackouts were ordered as energy systems experienced what the Webber Energy Group’s Joshua Rhodes called a “black swan event” that taxed all parts of those systems at the same time.
I spoke with Dustin Meyer, API vice president of Natural Gas Markets, to find out what happened in Texas, to understand the conditions that left the nation’s No. 1 energy state struggling for power and heat and what resources could help prevent this from happening again.
Bottom line points: Texas’ difficulties represent a failure of the grid across the board, with all generation technologies falling short of expectations; as in California last summer, events in Texas underscore the need for a diverse energy supply and smart planning to support the health of the U.S. power grid; natural gas, unique among energy sources in supplying needed attributes that ensure grid reliability, is and will remain a key in that diverse mix; and natural gas has carried most of the energy load in Texas this week, and without its contributions the energy picture would have been even worse. Expanded infrastructure would help make natural gas systems more resilient.
Posted September 30, 2020
The wild thing about the electricity grid is that you can see when the laws of man succumb to the laws of physics.
California provided a case study in late August. The state’s first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades spotlighted its mandates for how much electricity certain technologies can provide. There was lots of blame to go around and, while there is no single culprit behind the blackouts, what happened showed just how vital natural gas generation is to maintain a fully functioning grid, because of its reliability and unique operating characteristics.
Posted August 20, 2020
Natural gas as the essential partner for renewables such as wind and solar is something we’ve talked about a lot (see here, here and here). Californians have been schooled on this point recently, with millions suffering under rolling blackouts during soaring temperatures because electrical utilities couldn’t keep pace with skyrocketing demand.
The state’s renewables mandate has played a role in their misery. By requiring that 60% of California’s electricity must come from renewables by 2030 and through green energy subsidies, the state has seen the competitive balance tilt away from other, more flexible power sources, including cleaner natural gas.
Posted July 31, 2020
Former Vice President Joe Biden's camp says he wouldn’t completely ban hydraulic fracturing (see the New York Times and here) – the technology most responsible for a domestic energy revolution that has made the U.S. the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil. While Biden’s proposal to end new federal fracking leases is misguided, the fact he wouldn’t try to ban it elsewhere may suggest a recognition that fracking is critically important to the U.S. economy and national security.
This could indicate some important common ground, which API President and CEO Mike Sommers addressed in the Times article.This is especially welcome news for the nation’s electricity grid operators. They’re on the front lines of the twin effort to provide affordable energy to American homes and businesses, while lowering carbon dioxide emissions from power generation. For them, clean and reliable natural gas is the cornerstone for succeeding on both fronts, which is why natural gas is the nation’s No. 1 fuel for power generation.
Posted July 21, 2020
Through the recent COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shocks to energy markets around the world, U.S. natural gas has remained a relatively bright spot.
Record low prices have benefitted consumers, and at the same time many producers dedicated to natural gas in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Louisiana and East Texas have remained viable as cutbacks in oil and associated natural gas from other regions have taken effect. And now about 90% of U.S. drilling for natural gas is concentrated in these regions, that is Appalachia and the Haynesville areas.
The drilling activity has reflected two fundamental observations. The first is that, according to BTU Analytics, the recent breakeven price – that is, the Henry Hub wholesale market price needed to at least break even in drilling a new well – on average has remained near market prices despite COVID-19, a relatively warm winter and broad financial market concerns. The second observation is that natural gas well productivity, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, were resilient after some unexplained variation at the beginning of the year.