We used to be able to justify burning a bit of fossil gas, but we cannot anymore.
As noted in a recent post Reduce Demand. Clean up electricity. Electrify everything, I have a gas boiler keeping my radiators hot and a gas stove in my kitchen. I used to think this was the right thing to do and it certainly was when we burned coal to make electricity (which we don't in Ontario, Canada anymore).
In fact, I have been buying green electricity from Bullfrog Power since they started in 2005, so even when Ontario was burning coal, I could feel better about the fact that I personally was offsetting it. But I kept burning gas because I thought it made sense to directly burn gas for heat. As I wrote earlier, "I couldn't see the logic in burning gas to boil water to spin a turbine to generate power to push down a line to heat a coil in a stove- to boil water. Why not do it directly, and more efficiently?"
Today, I feel differently and realize that we have to get off fossil fuels, and have become convinced that we have to electrify everything. My next furnace will be electric (probably a Sanden CO2 heat pump that cranks out hot water) and my next range will be induction, but in the meantime, I finally broke down and signed up for Bullfrog green natural gas.
Of course, they are not piping methane from a landfill near Montreal into my house; I am still burning the same Enbridge fossil gas I was burning yesterday. But Bullfrog buys the gas from the landfill and claims that "by displacing fossil fuel-based natural gas with green natural gas on the pipeline, you reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuel-based energy sources."
Is this all mumbo-jumbo? Am I just paying money every month to feel better, like we used to say about carbon offsets? Bullfrog makes the case that the environment benefits come from displacing natural gas that might have been burned, replacing with "biogenic" gas that does not add incremental carbon to the atmosphere.
Green natural gas comes from decaying organic matter in landfills, like orange peels, egg shells and grass clippings. When this natural material decomposes, an energy-rich gas is produced that can be cleaned and then injected into the natural gas system—similar to the way in which green electricity is injected into the electricity system with Bullfrog.... It is considered a net-zero carbon dioxide emissions energy source that enables us to use appliances and heat our homes and businesses without contributing to climate change.
This is not quite the argument made by those who burn wood or plastics and say that is carbon neutral, which I always thought was silly because it is creating a big carbon hit now instead of sequestering carbon; this is gas coming from landfill that would have escaped into the atmosphere or been flared off.
Is this a substitute for going all electric? Absolutely not, I am still generating CO2. Also, there is a lot more in landfills than just orange peels and grass clippings; in a zero waste world where people don't waste food and organics and what is left is composted there wouldn't be any landfill gas, so it is hard to call it truly green. This is not a virtuous carbon cycle.
But David Roberts and others have convinced me that I cannot justify burning fossil gas anymore in a decarbonizing world. Even if it is not totally true as Bullfrog claims, that my "energy will be 100% green, renewable and climate friendly," it's a start.