Letters to the Editor

Harvard Ayers: Duke’s climate-damaging future

Regarding the recent articles on Duke Energy’s attempts to prevent The Climate Times and NC WARN from appealing the approval of an Asheville natural gas power plant by the North Carolina Utilities Commission: We believe that Duke Energy’s attempts to ignore our concerns have been the epitome of an anti-democratic power play to deny the public the right to object to a monopoly business that is clearly putting corporate profit ahead of customer well- being.

My interest is to place the issue of this one natural gas power plant in the context of the larger picture of the plans Duke has expressed in its latest long-range Integrated Resource Plan. Duke, in fact, plans to build many more natural gas plants in the Carolinas and to continue producing fossil fuel electricity for decades, even though science tells us we must rapidly reduce the carbon buildup in our earth’s atmosphere or pay the price of an unlivable hot planet.

Many of us heard several years ago that natural gas is a so-called “bridge fuel” to the future of solar and wind power in that it produces only about half as much carbon dioxide as coal. But more recently, scientists have found that carbon dioxide is not the only carbon pollution produced by the natural gas. Methane (CH4) – about 95 percent of natural gas – is another such compound. When natural gas is extracted from solid rock in fracking, in many cases deep underground, it leaks considerable amounts of methane to our atmosphere.

Transport of the gas through pipes, the storage of the gas till needed and the subsequent transport through more pipes to the power plant, result in up to 10 percent or more leakage. Ten percent may not sound like that much till you realize that methane is initially more than 100 times stronger a warming agent than carbon dioxide. Over its first 20 years in the atmosphere, it averages 86 times the strength of carbon dioxide. And due to methane’s relatively short time in the atmosphere compared with CO2, many well-respected scientists are saying that unless we move immediately to stop the use of natural gas (methane) as fuel, the earth cannot stay below a 1.5 degrees C temperature rise, the level at which climate change becomes almost unbearable.

Natural gas, far from being cleaner in carbon than coal, is much worse. Yet Duke plans to build approximately 20 more of these gas power plants the size of the Asheville plant by 2030 – that’s a plant every eight months.

By pointing out the climate-damaging future of natural gas in Duke Energy’s plans for the Carolinas, we can now easily see why it so so stringently resisted our attempts even to have a hearing of our expert scientists who would tell the truth about natural gas. It is simply a disaster for the climate.

Dr. Harvard Ayers

Executive director, The Climate Times


The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.