Groups tell CEO emerging science on methane leakage and fracking-gas Ponzi schemes make Duke Energy’s plan disastrous for climate and economy
Statement by Director Jim Warren:
Durham, NC – As Paris negotiators seek to avert irreversible global climate disruption, the nation’s largest carbon-polluting utility has been steaming full-speed backward with a climate- and economy-wrecking plan to greatly expand the burning and piping of fracked and conventional natural gas. Today NC WARN and The Climate Times openly pressed Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good to slow down, to weigh the evolving science and economics of natural gas, and to realize that she must share such critical decision-making with the people of North Carolina.
The natural gas industry and captive federal agencies have badly underestimated the climate impacts of methane leakage – and grossly overestimated the underground reserves of natural gas – amid a feverish, multi-year industry effort to convince the American public that fracked gas can bring about energy security and climate protection.
In our second letter to CEO Good since late October, the two nonprofits are urging her to reconsider the Charlotte-based energy giant’s recently announced plans to build up to 15 large gas-fired power plants in the Carolinas and two large pipelines, and to acquire a gas utility for $6.7 billion.
“We urge you to reconsider your plans before locking in gas-expansion efforts that seem doomed to failure unless science and economics are totally subordinated to corporate power and distortion of debate,” the letter states.
It also cited the work of leading methane leakage experts including Cornell’s Dr. Robert Howarth, who convincingly argues that curbing methane emissions is vital to slowing climate change. The letter introduces a new white paper that details our research of government data and the findings of independent technical experts. Among the recent information:
- Methane, the dominant component of natural gas, has a global warming impact 100 times that of carbon dioxide over its initial 10 years in the atmosphere.
- A large amount of it is leaking from conventional and shale gas wells.
- In order to slow global climate change in the critical short term, it is essential to immediately begin to greatly reduce methane emissions.
- Estimates of natural gas reserves in the U.S. are overstated by at least 50%, so future supplies might not be available, leading to fuel shortages and price spikes.
- The fracking gas industry is riding a financial bubble, revenues don’t cover costs and fracking companies are in deep financial straits.
Jim Rogers, Good’s predecessor at Duke, in 2011 called fracking gas the “crack cocaine” of the electric power industry due to its cost volatility.
The issues of methane leakage and the poor economics of natural gas are only beginning to emerge as death-knells for the U.S. fracking gas industry and electricity providers that bank on gas.
While there has been a steady effort by the gas industry to downplay methane leakage, the drilling industry has been unable to correct the leakage problems because much of the leakage occurs through the well casing during both drilling and production.
NC WARN and Dr. Harvard Ayers, Executive Director of The Climate Times, warned the CEO in October that they will vigorously contest Duke’s gas expansion. They also are part of an alliance calling on Attorney General Roy Cooper to amend Duke’s corporate charter in order to require it to phase out its coal-burning plants without expanding the use of natural gas.
The groups join scientists and economists in insisting on a strong shift to energy-saving and renewable generation technologies.
The groups also told CEO Good: “We are even more convinced that a transparent examination and debate over these issues will lead to rejection – by government officials and the public – of Duke Energy’s plans …
Despite increasing confrontation between Duke and nonprofits … We must face the hard truths openly and adjust our vision and actions as needed so that North Carolina rises to our duty to help preserve a habitable planet. We therefore urge you to realize that the public is your partner in the decisions that gravely affect our wellbeing. …
Unless prominent, independent scientists are badly mistaken, we are convinced that the people of North Carolina and other Duke Energy states will not go along with your plans for a fracking gas future.”