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In January of 2023 Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into law that makes the state the first to redefine natural gas as “green energy”. The push for this legislation came from Ohio lawmakers who were found to be working closely with a dark money group known as The Empowerment Alliance. The Empowerment Alliance (TEA) operates with a goal of promoting the gas industry while opposing clean energy sources such as wind and solar power. A series of emails obtained by watchdog organization The Energy and Policy Institute shows TEA distributing talking points on the benefits of natural gas to lawmakers, noting things such as how the shift from coal to natural gas has helped reduce Ohio’s CO2 emissions. The success of this movement will surely lead to a push in other states across the country to use natural gas as a type of green energy. Misleading syntax could damage effects towards efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change as resulting policies take effect.
The term natural gas is deceiving in that while it is derived from natural sources, it fails to mention that it is a fossil fuel composed mainly of methane. For years studies have focused on CO2 emissions as being a major factor in global warming, but recent research from Stanford University has shown that methane is a far greater contributor to global warming. Their studies have found that “Over the first two decades after its release, methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of warming the climate system” (Garthwaite, 2021). Stanford’s research also found that in 2018 methane emissions exceeded the EPA’s estimates by more than 60% or the equivalent of $2 billion in natural gas, which is enough to heat about ten million homes. These statistics highlight the danger posed by labeling natural gas as green energy.
The natural gas industry has prepared an aggressive strategy to protect its financial interests. With fears that millions of dollars in revenue could be at stake, The American Gas Association has set out to work with republicans in the House of Representatives to undercut the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA). Established as part of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, this program provides credits of up to $14,000 to moderate and low income families looking to switch household appliances from gas to electric. While the newly formed Republican House will surely look into ways to harm the program, a Democratic majority in the Senate should prevent a repeal of the program from happening. The industry also knows that it has an image problem amongst democratic-leaning voters and has formed a non-profit known as Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future. The program has enlisted the help of prominent democrats to help push the idea to liberals that natural gas is a clean and cheap energy source to use. These efforts show that lobbying and interest groups can have a powerful impact on our lawmakers, and the lengths they are willing to go to protect their business at the expense of the planet. We must continue to educate one another about the dangers of reliance on fossil fuels to our future, and natural gas is no exception.
Energy and Policy Institute. (2022). Ohio Senate response to Open Records Law request re: House Bill 507 a. Retrieved from Energy and policy Institute: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23571635-ohio-senate-response-to-open-records-law-request-re-natural-gas-us-green-amendment-to-hb-507#document/p1/a2194919
Energy and Policy Institute. (n.d.). The Empowerment Alliance. Retrieved from https://www.energyandpolicy.org/the-empowerment-alliance/#:~:text=The%20Empowerment%20Alliance%20is%20a,a%20lobbyist%20for%20Chesapeake%20Energy
Garthwaite, J. (2021, November 2). Methane and Climate Change. Retrieved from Stanford Earth Matters Magazine: https://earth.stanford.edu/news/methane-and-climate-change
Joselow, M. (2023, February 2). The gas industry is under fire. It’s hiring Democratic politicians to help. Retrieved from Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/02/02/gas-industry-hires-democrats-liberal-voters/
Lipton, E. (2022, October 20). Ahead of the Midterms, Energy Lobbyists Plan for a Republican House . Retrieved from New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/20/us/politics/oil-gas-gop-midterms.html
Rewiring America. (n.d.). High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA). Retrieved from Rewiring America: https://www.rewiringamerica.org/policy/high-efficiency-electric-home-rebate-act
U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2022, December 27). Natural gas explained. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/
Zuckerman, J. (2023, January 6). https://www.cleveland.com/open/2023/01/with-stroke-of-his-pen-gov-mike-dewine-defines-natural-gas-as-green-energy.html. Retrieved from Cleveland.com: https://www.cleveland.com/open/2023/01/with-stroke-of-his-pen-gov-mike-dewine-defines-natural-gas-as-green-energy.html