Coal or Gas?

seenoevilkidsAt ClimateMama our Mantra begins with “tell the truth..and continues with actions speak louder then words and don’t be afraid”…Climate Mama Susan Rubin, embodies this mantra and always tells the truth, never sugar coating it even when it may be very difficult for people to hear. Susan is a strong and outspoken climate champion, who we have had the privilege and honor of working with on numerous occasions. In this guest post, she educates us about the facts on “natural gas”…more specifically that there is nothing natural about it and it cannot and must not be accepted as a “bridge to a renewable future.” As Susan clearly shows us, this is a FALSE NARRATIVE; instead of a bridge, it is a one-way plank leading to a cliff, with no options for turning back….

At Climate Mama we have been sharing the facts around natural gas for years. And while many countries – including the United States – are moving forward with keeping coal in the ground, there is a misplaced “wish” that we can somehow transition through another fossil fuel as we move forward towards “cleaner and greener” energy sources. Susan, in her straightforward and direct way, shows us the fallacy of this misplaced belief. Coal, oil and GAS must stay in the ground.

Susan’s post should also serve as a reminder for us that we must use our voices, our actions and our votes to let candidates at every level of government, and companies who want us to buy and use their products and services know, that addressing climate change must be their number one priority too. Our children our watching, their future and now is in our hands.

Coal Vs Gas, Wrong Narrative
By Susan Rubin

First published at on March 14, 2016

Photo courtesy: Protecting Our Children Coaltion

Photo courtesy: Protecting Our Children Coaltion

If you ask the wrong question, you’re guaranteed to get the wrong answer!

Back in my school food reform days, many folks would ask me this question: “Which is worse? Coke or diet Coke?” I would answer WATER. Drink water! Both soda and diet soda are devastating for your health. Its really not about the calories, although the soda industry would like you to think it is. Water is the best beverage for your health.

These days, I listen to the news media ask the question “Which is worse? Coal or gas?” We can’t fall into that trap! It creates a false narrative not unlike the soda/ diet soda question.

The better question to ask is “Which is better?: fossil fuels or renewables?”

Renewable energy is cleaner, safer, better for the climate, better for our democracy and creates way more jobs than fossil fuels do. Now there’s a conversation worth having!

Comparing coal to gas is like comparing being shot or stabbed to death. Let me explain why.

Coal is bad news. It is a dirty, nasty fuel. It harms communities and puts out huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That carbon dioxide heats things up and accelerates man made climate chaos.

Photo credit; Shutterstock

Photo credit; Shutterstock

Gas is worse. Gas burns cleaner, putting 50% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when it burns. Sounds better, right? But here’s the catch! Gas LEAKS! And when it does, that gas (aka Methane, CH4) is 86 times worse than carbon dioxide in accelerating climate chaos. That dirty dangerous gas leaks EVERYWHERE! In every step of gas infrastructure gas is leaking out. At the gas wells, out of pipelines, power plants, compressor stations and LNG terminals.

The technical term for this leaking gas is ‘fugitive methane’. I once showed up at an anti gas pipeline rally in character dressed as fugitive methane. I gave a little speech explaining who I was and what havoc I wreck. I bombed badly! Fortunately there is no video recording of my theatrical attempt at light hearted comedy back in 2014.

If fugitive methane is 2-3% of gas burned then it is on the same level as coal when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, scientists tell us that fugitive methane is leaking at a rate of 8-17% Cities are leaking gas, pipelines leak gas, power stations leak gas. The massive methane leak out in Porter Ranch California is another source, there may be others we don’t even know about yet. Fugitive methane is a game changer. A real wake up call that we must change our ways. Quickly, without hesitation.

Gas is NOT a bridge fuel. It is much worse than coal. Anyone who still says its a bridge fuel is either not up to date with current science OR being funded by the gas industry. And yes, I am referring to Hillary Clinton. Her position on gas as bridge fuel is completely incompatible with a livable future. There. I said it.

This gas coal conversation reminds be of how the food industry took butter and other saturated fats out of foods decades back and replaced them with hydrogenated oils. It turns out that those hydrogenated oils contained trans fats which were far worse than the butter and lard were! It took a long time to get those hydrogenated oils out of the food supply. Many people are much sicker and fatter now as a result of that big mistake by the misled nutritionists in collaboration with the food industry.

We don’t have time on our side when it comes to climate change. We must act swiftly and meaningfully. We must stop both gas and coal ASAP and switch to renewable energy.

The Clean Power Plan, as it is currently created, is not the answer. It supports 300+ gas fueled power plants which will require pipelines, compressor stations and frack wells. Last summer I wrote a piece about how I was not doing a happy dance about the Clean Power Plan. I feel like I need to do more to convince folks. But what to do. Jump up and down? Yell? Scream? Dress up as fugitive methane again?

shutterstock_34452406When it comes to renewables, there is cause for hope. The Solutions Project makes the case for 100% renewable energy in all 50 states.

This can be done. But we have to stop gas in it’s tracks. And stop asking the wrong questions.

Susan Rubin is a health professional, food educator, Climate Reality leader and blogger. She also makes wonderful short films about environmental issues.

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