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What Are Greenhouse Gases?
Many chemical compounds found in the Earth’s atmosphere act as “greenhouse gases.” These gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely. When sunlight strikes the Earth’s surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation (heat). Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation and trap the heat in the atmosphere. Over time, the amount of energy sent from the sun to the Earth’s surface should be about the same as the amount of energy radiated back into space, leaving the temperature of the Earth’s surface roughly constant.

Many gases exhibit these “greenhouse” properties. Some of them occur in nature (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide), while others are exclusively human-made (like gases used for aerosols). The two major greenhouse gases are water vapor and carbon dioxide. Lesser greenhouse gases include methane, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrogen oxides.

The following are excerpt from the Suzuki Foundation submission to the OPA,  fall/05

 The pitfalls of natural gas

Natural gas has been widely promoted as a potential alternative to coal generation, and as the primary source of heat for buildings and industrial processes. Although natural gas may be a cleaner fuel than coal, its use still impacts air quality and human health, and its production has significant environmental consequences in the form of wilderness and habitat destruction.37

Furthermore, the contribution of natural gas generation to climate change is only slightly less than coal (on an energy basis).

Finally, a decrease in natural gas reserves has meant a doubling of its price – with wild price fluctuations – both of which make it a less attractive and more volatile alternative for electricity generation than efficiency strategies and renewable energy. Contrary to its clean image, natural gas contributes to climate change. Although burning natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal or oil (25–40% lower, per unit of generated electricity), natural gas still creates emissions when it is produced, processed, and transported.38

Further, there are two significant unresolved issues related to the economic costs of increasing reliance on electricity generation from natural gas: price increases and price fluctuations. Many energy experts are predicting that natural gas prices have established a new equilibrium at $3.50-$4.00 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf), compared to the $2/Mcf mark around which North American gas prices fluctuated over most of the 1980s and 1990s.39 The reason is that continued growth in gas-fired electricity in North America – driven by U.S. demand – is not matched by proven reserves of natural gas.40 Canada is the largest source of natural gas for the U.S., but Canada’s reserves are dwindling. Based on proven reserves and 2002 production figures, Canada has only nine years of production unless new reserves are discovered.41 In the long run, increased supply will not be able to match demand. Already, Canada’s natural gas production is expected to decline by 3% between 2002 and 2005 because “many of the new fields coming onstream are small and quickly depleted.”42 This reality will keep natural gas prices high in North America, and may potentially increase them further.

In the past, Canadian natural gas consumers – including electricity providers – have been economically buffered from U.S. demand as limited pipeline capacityhas meant that natural gas consumers north of the border have not had to compete with the massive U.S. appetite for natural gas. However, this buffer is quickly disappearing.  The Alliance Pipeline (B.C. to Illinois), the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline (Nova Scotia to Massachusetts), and others have meant that more of Canada’s natural gas production now gets burned in the U.S. than in Canada. Ironically, increased capacity pushes up the price Canadians pay for Canadian natural gas.43

The second price concern relates to the fluctuation in natural gas prices. Like all commodities, natural gas undergoes constant changes in its price. This is especially of concern for electricity utilities with significant amounts of gas-fired power. Natural gas prices and electricity prices influence each other. When natural gas prices go up, the cost and price of electricity goes up, and vice versa.44 Gas-fired power generators have options to decrease the risk of gas price volatility, but these instruments come at a premium.45 In other words, volatility can be contained, but only by pushing up the price of natural gas even further. Finally, the option of using natural gas as a “transition fuel” also poses risks. That is because the pipelines required to transport natural gas from its source to power plants are expensive. High pipeline costs have to be spread out by building several gas-fired power plants that last a generation or more.46


Checking the footnote information, also obtained the following:

Contrary to its clean image, natural gas contributes to climate change. Although burning natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal or oil (25-40% lower, per unit of generated electricity), natural gas still creates emissions when it is produced, processed, and transported. These can be significantly higher for natural gas compared to either oil or coal, mostly due to natural gas leaks and the energy required to compress the gas.ix A full life-cycle analysis shows that greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas-fired power are anywhere from 35% below to 25% above those from coal power (-22% to +67% compared to oil), depending on the study.x Even using the best-case scenario shows that natural gas is a deficient strategy to address climate change.

The impact of natural gas production and distribution on climate change seems to vary internationally dependant a great deal on the quality of pipelines and the degree of efficiency and regulation in the system.  A lot of the EU gas comes from Russia and the sense is that there are higher leaks, flaring etc.

Listed below are some web sites with more information of GHG....

Canada's 2004 Greenhouse gas inventory A Summary of Trends

Climate Change

Government of Canada... GHG

What are Greenhouse Gases... EIA

Global Warming and GHG

Green House Gas News

Green Housegases and Society

California against waste

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