Natural gas being flared off (
by Dan Burns
Aug 29, 2022, 6:00 PM

Natural gas is no answer

Natural gas is mostly methane. Contrary to common belief, methane is odorless to humans. Gas leaks smell because small amounts of a very pungent sulfur compound are added, as a safety precaution. They started doing that after the New London School explosion in 1937. Also, though methane is a component of human flatus, what makes some of that smell is sulfide and/or nitrate waste products of microbes in the intestinal biome.

Getting back on point:

A decade later, the supposed dream of natural gas has become a nightmare. Making energy cheaper? Utility and heating bills are skyrocketing. Providing abundant clean fuel? Shortages are causing a stampede back to coal. It’s a disaster.

Energy costs are soaring across the world, led by the gas shortage caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Dutch gas futures contracts, which are widely used as a benchmark for Europe, have soared from about 20 euros per megawatt-hour’s worth of gas in mid-2021 to about 280 euros (August 23), with the most recent spike caused by Russia’s announcement that it would shut down its main gas pipeline for a few days.

That in turn is fueling inflation: In July, the eurozone posted an 8.9 percent annual figure, the highest in its history, fueled mainly by gas prices…

Meanwhile, these soaring European prices are placing gas supply beyond the reach of the rest of the world. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have seen rolling blackouts thanks to expensive gas. Even in North America, where gas has traditionally been very cheap because it’s hard to transport to other continents, prices are surging thanks to the high price our exports now demand as they move through our recently constructed liquefied natural gas terminals to the EU market. The price of gas has compelled a turn back to coal power in countries like India, China, and Germany — and in Germany, the government is frantically restarting dirty, old plants that had been mothballed.
(The American Prospect)

Believe it or not, the biggest electricity company in Minnesota is actually ahead of the game on this. Last summer, Xcel Energy canceled plans to replace its big coal-burning plant in Becker with a gas-burning one. (Yes, that Becker, a northwest metro exurb recently in the news for Trumpist shenanigans from its school board.) Minnesota Power, though, still plans a big gas plant in Wisconsin that would serve customers in northeast MN. Maybe there’s still a chance of stopping that.

Minnesota also has two nuclear plants, at Monticello and Prairie Island. Xcel apparently wants to keep them going until 2040 at least, though those near Prairie Island have other plans. The Inflation Reduction Act unfortunately includes a big bailout for that industry, and nuke-heads are gleeful. Hopefully the prices of real renewables will continue to fall, and put a cork in that.

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.