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Ettore Santos
Professor L. Hamalian
ENGL 115
2 December 2014
One Fuel to the Next
As the toll of coal and petroleum use on the environment grows, so, too, does the
importance of establishing alternative energy sources as primary energy sources. Until we reach
a world that consumes primarily renewable energy, natural gas, or methane, has been offered as a
bridge fuel to tide us over. Using natural gas as a bridge fuel is dangerous not only because it
simply pushes the issue of renewable energy further into the future while continuing to pollute,
but also carries the risk of changing from a petroleum-dependent world to a natural gasdependent one. The costs of natural gas usage outweigh the benefits.
Any potential bridge energy source only serves to push the need for renewable energy
into the future. During the 2012 State of the Union Address, President Obama stated, we have a
supply of natural gas that can last America nearly a hundred years. A supply of non-renewable
energy that lasts that long is an easy excuse for this generation, and possibly even the next, to put
off establishing renewable energy sources for their entire lives. This vast supply, while less
damaging than coal or petroleum will allow environmentalism to be swept aside again until the
natural gas supplies run out. Pushing natural gas as a bridge fuel has another major danger
associated with it.
With such a large supply and the somewhat reduced carbon emissions associated with
natural gas, it appears to be not a bridge between fossil fuels and renewable resources, but a

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replacement for fossil fuels. Kirkland cites an MIT study that states, total gas use is projected to
increase from 2005 to 2050 even for the low estimate of domestic gas resources, indicating that
as the natural gas industry grows, it will supplant coal and petroleum as a primary energy source.
This is dangerous because it creates an industrial base centered on natural gas and not renewable
energies. The threat of creating a natural gas-dependent economy is already real in New England
where, the low price of natural gas now is lulling the region into making large investments that
will commit New England to the fuel no matter how high prices go (Wittenberg). These
investments now translate to dependency later. Without establishing renewable energy sources
alongside investments in natural gas infrastructure it is entirely possible that natural gas will just
become the next oil, just as oil became the next coal.
Although some renewable energy sources are being established, they are not keeping
pace with the growth of natural gas industry. The primacy of natural gas is already manifest in
that, the total level of investment in renewables is lower now than a peak of $280bn in 2011 and
is expected to average only $230bn annually to the end of the decade (Macalister). This
demonstrates that the use of natural gas as a bridge fuel is pushing the world not toward
renewable energy, but toward natural gas itself. This is not a green movement, it is a gas
movement. A movement toward natural gas may prove to be counterproductive with respect to
the environment as well.
The economic and industrial risks of natural gas as an energy source are made even less
alluring given the method used to harvest it, fracking, is potentially just as environmentally
damaging as burning coal or oil. Grose's article Get Fracking notes that groundwater and
aquifers near fracking ventures have shown, contamination from wastewater disposal, and spills

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of drilling fluids, or "slickwater," which typically contain hydrochloric acid and chemicals used
in bleaches, medical disinfectant, and glass cleaner. Direct release of dangerous chemicals into
water sources is a major problem, both for wildlife and humans as clean water becomes more
scarce. Even if spills are reduced, the fracking process which involves hydraulic fluids being
injected into millions of underground cracks requires a large amount of precious water. Not only
water is polluted, however, as the harvesting process requires, diesel-powered compressors
to pump the water and run heavy equipment, and truck traffic in and out of drill sites is nonstop...
[releasing] nitrogen oxides into the air, equivalent to what an unfiltered, midsized coal-fired plant
would produce (Grose). Although the burning of natural gas as a fuel produces only about half
the carbon dioxide as the burning of petroleum, the environmental cost of harvesting the gas at
least makes up the difference. Natural gas fracking poses problems for both the health of water
supplies and the atmosphere.
All in all, natural gas is dangerous to the environment and to world economies both. A
dependence on natural gas is the natural conclusion to the direction that government and
corporate policies are currently headed. A change must be made sooner rather than later that
places natural gas as a small stepping stone to renewable energy if it is to be used as a bridge
energy and nothing more.

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Grose, Thomas K. "Get Fracking." ASEE Prism, 21.1 (2011): 40. In this article, Grose explains
briefly explains the process of fracking and its potential benefits and drawbacks. As the
article was published in 2011, some parts are merely speculation. This article is useful in
that it explains both the financial and environmental benefits of shifting to natural gas as
a major source of energy, as well as the possible detriments to the environment. As a
scholarly article in an engineering journal there is little bias with regards to the
environment and facts are plainly stated.
Kirkland, Joel. "Natural Gas Could Serve as 'Bridge' Fuel to Low-Carbon Future." Scientific
American. Nature America Inc., 25 June 2010. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Macalister, Terry. "Renewable Energy Capacity Grows at Fastest Ever pace." The Guardian.
Guardian News and Media Limited, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
McKibben, Bill. "Bad News for Obama: Fracking May Be Worse Than Burning Coal." Mother
Jones. Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 22
Nov. 2014. This article brings up information from research done after fracking wells
have been drilled. The article is at first primarily critical of President Obama's actions
regarding environmental protection, but then shifts to pointing out all the negative
impacts of fracking and natural gas in general. Although the author Bill McKibben is a
very active environmentalist (contributing to a very biased article), it is important to

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understand the environmentalists' argument in this ongoing dialogue. The article argues
against the use of natural gas as a bridge to renewable resources, a point heavily
advocated by proponents of natural gas drilling.
Obama, Barack H. State of the Union Address. 2012 State of the Union. Capitol Building.
Washington, D.C. 24 Jan. 2012. Address.
Wittenberg, Ariel. "How New England's Dependence on Natural Gas Is Causing a Pipeline
Traffic Jam." SouthCoastToday. Local Media Group Inc., 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 Nov.
2014. <>.