So I get an e-mail from the Baltimore Building and Construction Trades Council this morning with the title “Please Help Maryland Save 5,000 Clean Energy Jobs”. Intrigued, and thinking this might have something to do about Maryland investing it’s RGGI money into energy efficiency, or accelerating solar standards, I open it. Needless to say, I’m surprised to see that natural gas is passing for clean energy jobs these days. Clean is all relative in this game. Natural gas is cleaner than coal. Oil is cleaner than tar sands oil or shale oil. Yet I think the notion of calling conventional oil “clean energy” would be utterly ridiculous.
But there’s another interesting piece from their e-mail. This is a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Plant that is proposed to be build at Sparrows Point in Maryland. The e-mail states compared to natural gas, even the cleanest coal produces 70% more emissions. There’s a big difference between a straight up natural gas plant and an LNG plant. The reason the natural gas is liquefied is because we have to transport it from quite aways. Check it out on this info from a natural gas company based in Australia.
“WHO PRODUCES AND USES LNG?
Leading exporters of LNG include Qatar, Indonesia, Algeria, Malaysia, Trinidad, Egypt and Australia. Australia entered the LNG market in 1989 and is the third largest LNG producer in the Asia-Pacific region and the fifth largest LNG producer in the world, exporting approximately 13+ million tonnes in 2006.”
Not only does this undercut the carbon emissions argument, but it’s a terrible strategy for energy independence! As I showed in a post last June, because of the long transportation distance, LNG’s emissions are barely lower than coal. Certainly not by the amount the Trades Council was claiming:
“The LNG Exception? One big outlier in all of this emissions data is the additional environmental damage and life-cycle pollution of Liquefied Natural Gas(LNG). Here, natural gas is frozen to -260 degrees to become a liquid, and then shipped on giant tankers, often halfway around the world to countries that use it. This is what we import. According to a study by the Carnegie Mellon Institute, when you take into account the full life-cycle of carbon dioxide emissions of coal versus LNG, their total CO2 emissions are “comparable”. I quote that since I want to add context and say that according to their findings, LNG has 89% of the carbon dioxide of coal, although that isn’t mentioned, so you’ve got to pull out a handy calculator. It’s also worth noting that this is only taking into account carbon dioxide emissions, and not nitrogen oxide emissions, which is also a greenhouse gas. If you note the chart above, you’ll see that if you take NO2 into account for the full life-cycle, the greenhouse emissions comparison of the life-cycles of LNG and coal won’t be quite as close. The important thing to take away from this information on LNG is that it’s considerably dirtier than ordinary natural gas, and can approach the pollution of coal. Whether or not you call them “comparable” depends on your criteria. Coal is still dirtier, but not by as much as it was before we accounted for LNG. When it comes to transportation, the US Department of Energy says LNG that’s used for our transportation needs doesn’t save energy use or greenhouse gas emissions.”
This is not to say I’m vehemently opposed to ramping up the consumption in our existing conventional natural gas facilities and simultaneously lowering the consumption from our coal plants. But in order for a legitimate conversation on that possibility to even take place, it can’t be LNG unless you give me some laughing gas to go along with that natural gas. It also looks like this LNG is being transported to Pennsylvannia, so the notion this is for Maryland’s energy future is on shaky ground.
If the Council wanted to create actual clean energy jobs in Maryland, and back coal out of the market, they should consider lobbying for energy efficiency provisions. Mckinsey & Company have documented this is the best way to reduce emissions and create green jobs. There’s also clean energy loans legislation up for consideration in Annapolis that would spur investment in energy efficiency and solar power all over the state. Three of the state senators from Baltimore are in the Senate Finance Committee, and they have expressed that they may not vote for the legislation, despite the job creating potential it would have for Baltimore in financing clean energy projects for years to come. Another example is that last year Governor O’Malley raided $70 million dollars from our energy efficiency dollars, and gave them out in rebate checks to consumers instead. Will Maryland continue to divert RGGI funds to rebates after 2011? Or will we invest tens of millions into energy efficiency?
The point is, there are lots of real ways for the trades council to advocate for real clean energy solutions that will reduce emissions and create green jobs. They don’t need to lie about LNG. And yes, it’s lying, they know what they’re doing when they call LNG jobs clean energy jobs.
I would suggest they cut the crap and keep their credibility. The e-mail they sent out is below.