Editor's Note: This week, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and a contributor to this blog, is providing the question.
Last week, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to examine the increased supply estimates for domestic natural gas from shale formations, and the contribution that those projected supplies could make to our energy security and climate protection objectives. One of the witnesses put forward a proposal to replace the least-efficient coal-fired electricity generators with newly built natural gas plants. He testified that replacing about 8-10 of these old coal plants per year in this manner would account for about 10 percent of the cumulative 2020 domestic emissions reduction contemplated by pending climate bills, and that these reductions would come at a cost equivalent to about $13 per ton of CO2 reduced.
What would be the pluses and minuses of such an initiative? If we greatly expand our use of natural gas in the utility sector, how would that affect the manufacturing sector, which also has a growing need for natural gas? How likely is it that utility fuel will switch to natural gas in any case, independent of the passage of climate legislation or specific initiatives?