Hey there! If you’re just catching up, I’m doing a series on energy sources! I recently covered coal and oil. Coming up are solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Hope you enjoy… Make sure to comment and let me know what you think! 🙂
Once viewed as a mere consequence of drilling for oil, natural gas has fast become an energy source in its own right. In fact, natural gas has now passed oil and is nearly tied with electricity as the most used energy source in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. As energy costs rise, it’s worth examining the pros and cons of gas heat.
This rise in use is due in part to the fact that it burns cleaner than other fossil fuels. It produces half the carbon dioxide of coal and nearly a third less than oil.
On top of this, gas used to heat a home is warmer than electric heat and has efficiency rates of up to 90 percent. It’s no wonder that, of the 83 million U.S. homes with access to natural gas, 84 percent use it, according to a survey from the EIA.
If it’s popular and it’s better for the environment, it seems like installing gas is an easy choice, but along with the rewards that come with natural gas, there are also risks — for both homeowners and the planet. Whether you’re considering changing from natural gas or to it, here’s what you should know to make an informed decision.
Originally, the only accessible type of natural gas was a byproduct of oil drilling. It was found in underground pockets about 5,000 feet below the earth’s surface, usually just above oil. This type of gas is referred to as conventional gas because, for years, it’s been the simplest gas to reach and the easiest to profit from.
But there are other pockets of gas deeper in the earth, around 15,000 feet down, called unconventional gases. Shale gas is one of these, and, until now, shale gas was impossible to extract. Thanks to advances in technology, shale is fast becoming the go-to source for natural gas.
In many ways, this isn’t a bad thing. For instance, we supply nearly all the natural gas the U.S. consumes. So, reaching more sources of the gas beneath our feet lessens America’s dependence on foreign fuel.
The biggest problem with these new gas reserves lies in the way the removal. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) gets deep into the earth and fractures the rocks that hold the gas. Unfortunately, this process is not as environmentally-friendly as the gas itself.
Fracking has been linked to contaminated drinking-water supplies in the areas in which its used. It has strained municipal water reserves because of the large amounts of water needed for the process itself.
Another environmental risk is that some methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaks out during its extraction and transfer. Some argue that, over time, this leakage will cancel out most of the clean-burning benefits of natural gas. Whether that’s true remains to be seen.
For now, the low cost of gas and its smaller carbon footprint have improved energy efficiency and lessened CO2 emissions in the U.S. by replacing coal as the main way to produce electricity for the grid. Oddly enough, even if you do choose electric heat, you will most likely still be utilizing natural gas, just not directly in your home.
Here’s a list of pros and cons, unrelated to the environment, of using gas heat in your home.
As you can see, choosing gas is not necessarily a clear-cut decision. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight to make the decision that’s right for you.