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CNN Climate Town Hall: 3 Questions That Every Candidate Should Answer


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If seven hours of questions aren’t enough, here are three more questions that are worth keeping in mind while watching the town hall.

While these questions may not touch on the biggest or thorniest issues (see here for more of a topline tip sheet) they provide a small snapshot into some of the important policy questions that are often brushed over to oversimplify the complexity of changing America’s energy sector, and minimize the fundamental role of natural gas and oil to modern society.

Climate change is real and its proposed solutions need to be real as well. That’s why the natural gas and oil industry is meeting the challenge head on by helping to drive CO2 emissions to the lowest levels in a generation while continuing to power the U.S. economy, support 10.3 million jobs and provide reliable and affordable domestic energy to Americans.

  1. Some candidates have outlined proposals that would severely inhibit American households from accessing our country’s abundant supply of affordable and clean natural gas. How will Americans benefit from policies that it will almost certainly lead to families paying more to meet their basic energy needs while not necessarily reducing CO2 emissions?

  1. U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen to their lowest levels in a generation (even as global emissions rose 50 percent since 1990) in large part due to the U.S.’ transition to clean natural gas for electricity generation. Given that U.S. LNG exports could help set other nations on a similar trajectory, how would proposals to ban LNG decrease global CO2 emissions when there will be less LNG available to spur transitions away from coal power?

  1. With numerous climate change proposals pushing for increases in solar power, wind power, and the number of electric vehicles, natural gas and oil will play a critical role as petrochemicals are used to make and maintain wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, etc. Further, plans for greater electrification would rely on natural gas as a major source for generating electricity. Including proposals from candidates highly critical of natural gas and oil, do any of the suggested policies to address climate change not utilize products comprised of natural gas and oil products?

DEBATE QUESTIONS

NATURAL GAS BAN

Q: Some candidates have outlined proposals that would severely inhibit American households from accessing our country’s abundant supply of affordable and clean natural gas. How will Americans benefit from policies that it will almost certainly lead to families paying more to meet their basic energy needs while not necessarily reducing CO2 emissions?

Q: Some candidates have outlined proposals that would severely inhibit American households from accessing our country’s abundant supply of affordable and clean natural gas. How will Americans benefit from policies that it will almost certainly lead to families paying more to meet their basic energy needs while not necessarily reducing CO2 emissions?

Fully Electrified Homes Are Not Inherently As Eco-Friendly As Homes With Access To Natural Gas

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that residential natural gas heating and cooling systems are “more eco-friendly.” “If you want to make your home as energy-efficient and green as possible, should you use gas or electric for your heating and cooling needs? Gas is the more eco-friendly option—for now—for an energy-efficient home in Maryland.” (“Gas vs. Electric? NIST Says Fuel Choice Affects Efforts to Achieve Low-Energy and Low-Impact Homes,” National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/23/19)

Department of Energy: “…electric heat is often more expensive than heat produced in homes or businesses that use combustion appliances, such as natural gas…” “Because of electricity generation and transmission losses, electric heat is often more expensive than heat produced in homes or businesses that use combustion appliances, such as natural gas, propane, and oil furnaces.” (“Electric Resistance Heating,” U.S. Department of Energy, Accessed 8/25/19)

Consumer Affairs said natural gas “takes the trophy as the more eco-friendly option for any appliance.” “Gas takes the trophy as the more eco-friendly option for any appliance. Gas dryers in particular use 30 percent less energy than electric ones, which will reduce your carbon footprint.” (Consumer Affairs, 8/28/19)

Banning Natural Gas In Homes Can Significantly Increase Household Energy Costs

A National Institute of Standards and Technology study found that that residential natural gas heating and cooling systems are “more economical overall” than electrical systems. “Under those criteria, the study results suggest that a natural gas HVAC system is currently more economical overall than an electric one for a code-compliant Maryland home.” (“Gas vs. Electric? NIST Says Fuel Choice Affects Efforts to Achieve Low-Energy and Low-Impact Homes,” National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/23/19)

Department of Energy: “[T]he higher cost of electricity in most parts of the country makes all-electric furnaces or boilers an uneconomic choice.” “However, despite their high efficiency, the higher cost of electricity in most parts of the country makes all-electric furnaces or boilers an uneconomic choice.” (“Furnaces and Boilers,” U.S. Department of Energy, Accessed 8/25/19)

Consumer Affairs: “Natural gas is almost always cheaper than electricity. Choosing all gas appliances can save you up to 30 percent on your utility bill.” (Consumer Affairs, 8/28/19)

Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory: “The price of natural gas has dropped recently, while the cost of electricity has been flat or rising, making the relative cost of energy more unfavorable for electricity.” (“Electrification of buildings and industry in the United States,” Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, 3/18, p. 6)

An analysis released by the California Building Industry Association found that switching to all-electric appliances would result in a total annual increase of $877 in appliance and energy costs for consumers. “The analysis, conducted by Navigant Consulting found that in homes with natural gas appliances, swapping those appliances for all electric alternatives would cost the average household in Southern California more than $7,200 to upgrade wiring and electrical panels and purchase new appliances.” (Press Release, California Building Industry Association, 4/23/18)

High Household Energy Costs Disproportionately Hurt The Most Vulnerable Americans

Nearly one in three U.S. households “reported facing a challenge in paying energy bills or sustaining adequate heating and cooling in their homes in 2015,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). “Nearly one-third of U.S. households (31%) reported facing a challenge in paying energy bills or sustaining adequate heating and cooling in their homes in 2015.” (“One in three U.S. households faces a challenge in meeting energy needs,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 9/19/18)

  • EIA: “Of the 25 million households that reported forgoing food and medicine to pay energy bills, 7 million faced that decision nearly every month.” (“Residential Energy Consumption Survey,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015)

  • EIA: “Households may have also used less energy than they would prefer to: 11% of households surveyed reported keeping their home at an unhealthy or unsafe temperature.” (“Residential Energy Consumption Survey,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015)

NPR: “[P]eople of color [are] disproportionately affected: about half of respondents who reported challenges paying their energy bills identified as black. More than 40 percent identified as Latino.” “And people of color were disproportionately affected: about half of respondents who reported challenges paying their energy bills identified as black. More than 40 percent identified as Latino.” (NPR, 9/19/18)

NATURAL GAS EXPORTS

Q: U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen to their lowest levels in a generation (even as global emissions rose 50 percent since 1990) in large part due to the U.S.’ transition to clean natural gas for electricity generation. Given that U.S. LNG exports could help set other nations on a similar trajectory, how would proposals to ban LNG decrease global CO2 emissions when there will be less LNG available to spur transitions away from coal power?

  • According to The Washington Post, there is some support for banning fossil fuel exports. (“Where Democrats Stand, The Washington Post, Accessed 8/31/19)

  • The U.S. has seen the largest absolute decline in CO2 emissions since 2000 among all countries. “In the United States, the emission reductions seen in 2017 were reversed, with an increase of 3.1% in CO2 emissions in 2018. Despite this increase, emissions in the United States remain around their 1990 levels, 14% and 800 Mt of CO2 below their peak in 2000. This is the largest absolute decline among all countries since 2000. The impact of weather conditions was especially marked in the United States, driving up cooling and heating needs and accounting for about 60% of the emissions increase in 2018.” (“Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” IEA, 3/26/19)

  • IEA: Natural gas “replaces more polluting fuels,” “reduces air pollution and limits emissions of carbon dioxide.” “Natural gas is one of the mainstays of global energy: worldwide consumption is rising rapidly and in 2018 gas accounted for almost half of the growth in total global energy demand. Gas plays many different roles in the energy sector and, where it replaces more polluting fuels, it also reduces air pollution and limits emissions of carbon dioxide.” (“The Role of Gas in Today’s Energy Transitions,” International Energy Agency, 7/17/19, p. 2)

  • Between 2005-2017, EIA reports that natural gas was responsible for more CO2 emissions reductions in electricity generation than renewables. “Two basic factors contributed to lower carbon intensity of electricity generation (CO2/kilowatthour) since 2005—the substitution of coal-fired generation with the less-carbon-intensive and more efficient combined-cycle natural gas-fired generation and the growth in non-carbon electricity generation, especially from wind and solar. Between 2005 and 2017, CO2 emissions declined by a cumulative 3,855 MMmt as a result of these two factors (see methodology on page 21). Of this total, 2,360 MMmt can be attributed to the shift in fossil fuels to natural gas” (“U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2017” EIA, Sep. 2018)

  • “Despite growth in coal use, fuel switching between coal and gas accelerated in 2018, reducing the carbon intensity of global energy use.” “Despite growth in coal use, fuel switching between coal and gas accelerated in 2018, reducing the carbon intensity of global energy use. Driven by economics and policies, coal-to-gas switching avoided almost 60 Mt of coal demand, with the transition to less carbon-intensive natural gas helping avert 95 Mt of CO2 emissions. Without this coal-to-gas switch, the increase in emissions would have been more than 15% greater.” (“Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” IEA, 3/26/19)

  • “Without this coal-to-gas switch, the increase in emissions would have been more than 15% greater.” (“Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” IEA, 3/26/19)

  • Coal-fired power plants were the largest contributor to the growth in emissions in 2018, coal-fired electricity generation accounted for 30% of global CO2 emissions, and the majority of that generation is found today in Asia. “In fact, coal-fired power plants were the single largest contributor to the growth in emissions observed in 2018, with an increase of 2.9%, or 280 Mt, compared with 2017 levels, exceeding 10 Gt for the first time. As a result, coal-fired electricity generation accounted for 30% of global CO2 emissions. The majority of that generation is found today in Asia, where average plants are only 12 years old, decades younger than their average economic lifetime of around 40 years.” (“Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” IEA, 3/26/19)

  • IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol: U.S. LNG exports to Asia “will end up reducing global CO2 emissions, which is a net benefit for the world.” “We are talking about CO2 emissions in the world and when I say that Asia is waiting for U.S. natural gas, it is in most cases—it will end up reducing global CO2 emissions, which is a net benefit for the world.” (Fatih Birol, Testimony, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Senate, 2/28/19) TIMESTAMP: [01:30:45 – 01:31:04]

  • Bloomberg: “New export terminals are exporting cheap American gas worldwide, prompting countries across Asia, especially China and Pakistan, to buy LNG as an alternative to coal for power generation.” (Bloomberg, 7/22/19)

The Natural Gas And Oil Industry Is A Key Partner In Addressing Climate Change

Q: With numerous climate change proposals pushing for increases in solar power, wind power, and the number of electric vehicles, natural gas and oil will play a critical role as petrochemicals are used to make and maintain wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, etc. Further, plans for greater electrification would rely on natural gas as a major source for generating electricity. Including proposals from candidates highly critical of natural gas and oil, do any of the suggested policies to address climate change not utilize products comprised of natural gas and oil products?

  • IEA: Petrochemicals are “required to manufacture many parts of the modern energy system, including solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, thermal insulation and electric vehicles.” Petrochemicals are particularly important given how prevalent they are in everyday products. They are also required to manufacture many parts of the modern energy system, including solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, thermal insulation and electric vehicles. (IEA, 10/5/18)

  • Natural gas comprised 35.1% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2018. (EIA, 3/1/19)

    • Solar power’s share was 1.6%. (EIA, 3/1/19)