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Don’t be Fooled into Switching.
New NYC laws require buildings to stop using heavy fuel oils. Incentives and current low prices may lead building owners to believe there’s a benefit to switching from burning oil to burning gas. We believe that would be a regrettable choice. Not only is it expensive to convert to gas, but the price of gas is very likely to rise in coming years, creating financial hardships after buildings have committed. The “Shale Gas Revolution” has been called a “Ponzi Scheme, a “bubble,” and a “gold rush.” Revised projections of recoverable supply posit a mere 7 years worth of gas.
Meanwhile, the rush is truly on to export gas to hungry markets in Asia and elsewhere, in order to raise domestic prices. There are multiple plans for LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminals, and much of our shale plays are already owned by overseas investors. Former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon even proclaimed, “We are presently owned by a group of investors who don’t think gas prices will ever go above $4 (per MCF). I want to be owned by investors who live in a part of the world that believes gas prices will never go below $10.”
Many believe gas conversions will help with our asthma problem, but widespread gas conversions will worsen, rather than improve our air quality, as it will increase the buildout of fracking. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than CO2, and emissions from drill sites can travel in a radius of up to 200 miles, raising our ozone and pollution levels. Getting gas from the drill sites to cities requires pipelines, which are not only dangerous, but leak 24/7, losing anywhere from 3-12% of their volume. Pipeline leaks are so common that industry has given them a nickname: LUGs (Lost Unaccounted Gas). The more gas that is used, more pipelines will be built, more pipeline leaks will occur, and more methane and toxins will enter our atmosphere.
Sane Energy Project believes a better alternative lies in a holistic approach to energy use: A combination of renewable alternatives including efficiency, solar thermal, and the use of biodiesel or bioD blends. Switching an oil-burning boiler to bioD requires minimal expense and disruption. Using solar thermal to pre-heat hot water greatly reduces the amount of energy required for domestic hot water. Efficiency and conservation reduces the amount of fuel required, and therefore the level of emissions, no matter what type of fuel is used. If your building is considering converting to gas, we suggest looking into these alternatives first. Don’t be fooled into committing to gas; there are cheaper, healthier, and greener options available.
And the experts agree. At a recent Clean Heat forum, sponsored by Green Home NYC, was summarized as follows: “After comparing the options, all of the Forum speakers concluded that converting directly from Number 6 to Number 2 oil is every building’s best option. While converting to Number 4 is a less intensive process, it’s only a temporary fix; natural gas is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to implement. On the other hand, the conversion to Number 2 can cost less than $10,000 and be completed in just a few days. “