Is Natural Gas Green?

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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In an effort to live a greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle, you may be questioning the way you’re heating your home. This is especially true for those living in houses which are fitted with natural gas furnaces.

While the word natural is contained within the description of this fuel source, there’s great debate about how truly renewable and organic it may be.

Where Natural Gas Comes From

First, it’s critical to understand where and how we actually get natural gas. The gas, which is a combination of mostly methane mixed with other gases, occurs as a geological formation within the Earth. Once a large enough amount has been discovered, it is tapped by drilling wells. Using specialized equipment, the gas that is released from these wells is brought to the surface of the Earth and ultimately distributed to users across a region.

At first glance, this process seems to be entirely green; after all, we are taking a naturally occurring fuel and simply bringing it into our structures to burn. However, there are more elements to this picture to consider when determining the greenness of this product.

The Top Issues With Natural Gas

While the gas itself is natural, the methods used to bring it to market may be disconcerting for some people who want to live in an environmentally conscientious way. For instance, the machines that are utilized at drill sites use a wide variety of other fuels, including diesel fuel, oil and electricity (which is sometimes created using coal) to complete their jobs. This means that fossil fuels may be burned at high rates to get natural gas into our homes.

Another concern is that fracking – a method of bringing natural gas to the surface of the ground – may contribute to water pollution because chemicals are used. The levels of toxicity within the water and soil due to fracking is much debated among scientists, and is being studied widely to determine its validity as an argument against finding and uncovering natural gas. Additionally, when deposits of natural gas are removed, there is the chance for mini-earthquakes to occur.

In terms of renewability, natural gas is essentially a limited commodity. Although new sources of natural gas are being uncovered across the nation and world, it takes hundreds of thousands of years for reserves to be built back up. This means there will likely be some point in the future when natural gas is no longer feasible as an affordable fuel.

A final concern is that although methane only releases carbon dioxide and water when it is burned, any methane that escapes during the drilling process stays in the air for more than a decade. This may or may not be contributing to climate change.

Alternatives to Natural Gas

For green-driven consumers whose questions about natural gas production and usage create a desire to find an alternative fuel source, possibilities do exist. These can include burning wood, choosing solar power, harnessing wind power, using biofuels like sunflower oil or trying (pricey) radiant heat.  

Of course, if you don’t have the cash on hand to completely redo your heating system, you can always take the path of least harm. In the winter, you can simply keep the thermostat as low as possible, wear heavier clothing, insulate windows and doors, and use space heaters.

Just remember to follow recommended safety precautions when you’re using a natural gas furnace; this means being able to recognize any problems before they become major disasters.

Key Takeaways to Remember:

1. It’s critical to remember that when discussing natural gas or any heating source, we must always think beyond the obvious.

2. It isn’t just the fuel itself that makes it green, but how that fuel is brought into your home, how often it needs to be replenished and what it leaves in our atmosphere.

3. In the end, every homeowner must make the best decision for his or her family based on all the facts.

What are your thoughts about using natural gas for energy? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Photo by kobiecanka

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