May 23, 2012

wind = natural gas

On May 1, 2012, Windpower Monthly published an interview by Ros Davidson with Denise Bode, CEO of industry lobby American Wind Energy Association. Besides her incoherence about the Production Tax Credit (the industry will die without it! the industry no longer needs it!), here is an interesting excerpt about natural gas. Before moving to the AWEA in 2009, Bode was CEO of natural gas lobby American Clean Skies Foundation.
RD: You and Texan oil billionaire T Boone Pickens have promoted the idea of a wind–natural gas partnership, using both sources for generation and natural gas for vehicles. You co-authored an article on the issue with Pickens on Politico (the political journalism website) just before the 2011 AWEA conference. Yet, many people are increasingly uncomfortable with natural gas because of questions about the environmental safety of fracking - a procedure that releases gas from underground shale rocks - and because of methane emissions. Where does that leave AWEA and the prospect of natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to a low-carbon future?

DB: You're talking to somebody who was a state regulator of oil and gas. You can safely frack. You can regulate and manage it. The natural gas industry really got ahead of itself because they were drilling in places that did not have a mature regulatory structure. They also didn't have the infrastructure to properly address the fracking. Over time that will change, whether it is through federal or state regulation. It can be managed.

RD: So the controversy over fracking and methane emissions doesn't change your view of wind and gas collaborating?

DB: It's a matter of fact that wind and gas will be the two largest new sources of electricity generation.

RD: But doesn't the public perception of natural gas fracking make the partnership more difficult to sell?

DB: You know, we're focused on the PTC and don't spend a lot of time promoting our partnership. We try not to tear somebody else down and build ourselves up. We talk about the benefits of wind. Natural gas has to pretty much make its own case, although we do need to work together. We need each other to balance utilities' portfolios. Natural gas provides peak power in a way that wind can't. We need each other and should work together as much as possible.
It is obvious that wind needs natural gas, not just to ensure power on demand, but also to effectively balance wind's high degree of variation. However, natural gas does not need wind. In fact, without wind, natural gas turbines can operate about twice as efficiently - ie, with about half the emissions. In other words, to support wind on the grid is not only to support more fracking for natural gas, but also to support less efficient use of that natural gas.

Bode's comment that "You can safely frack" reminds us of this statement from the AWEA strategy memo leaked from its November 2011 board meeting:
We need to create a space for the wind energy industry without defining it as an alternative to fossil fuels and coal and that goes beyond being one of many "renewables." "Renewables" in general are saddled with weaknesses that we don’t want to have to carry.
That is to say, wind has moved from serving as atonement for consumerism to now being little more than the greenwashing arm of the natural gas industry.

Cf  "Breaking Up with the Sierra Club", in response to the discovery that the wind industry cheerleader had accepted more than $25 million dollars from fracker Chesapeake Energy.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism