Democrats Sell Their Souls To The Methane Mob

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Methane, the primary component of so-called natural gas, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but most people are not as conscious of it as they are of CO2. There’s no Keeling Curve for methane, for instance, so many are are unaware of the environmental damage it does. That suits the lords and master of methane just fine.

The message the industry wants to get across is that methane burns cleaner than coal. That’s true, but that’s damning with faint praise. It’s like saying potato chips have less cholesterol than a baked potato slathered with real butter and sour cream. That’s also true, but it doesn’t mean pounding down a bag of chips while sitting on the couch watching TV is good for you. Methane is still a fossil fuel, one that helps to drive up the average temperature of the atmosphere when burned.

Meet Natural Allies For A Clean Energy Future

Image credit: Natural Allies

A group of methane suppliers have banded together to form a new organization known as Natural Allies For A Clean Energy Future. According to the Washington Post, the group’s primary purpose is to convince Democratic voters that gas is a “clean” energy source. And how best to do that? Hire Democrats to tout the wonders of burning methane to fellow Democrats.

The Post says Mary Landrieu, a former Democratic senator for Louisiana, told Bloomberg News recently, “Yes, this country needs to move forward on wind and solar, but we need to back it up with a fuel that we can count on, a power source, and that’s natural gas. It’s abundant, it’s cheap, and it can be cleaner.” Landrieu said she was speaking on behalf of Natural Allies, but neglected to mention the group is a front for the methane industry.

“The gas utilities are acutely aware that their constituency is blue voters,” Charlie Spatz, a research manager at the Energy and Policy Institute, tells the Post. “The gas industry is not, at the end of the day, worried about right wing voters. They have them.” In fact, the industry is worried because 90 counties and cities — almost all of them led by Democrats — have prohibited or discouraged gas use in new buildings. In 2021, New York City became the largest city in the United States to ban gas connections for newly constructed buildings under seven stories.

And who are these Natural Allies? TC Energy, the Canadian pipeline giant behind the controversial Keystone XL project, and Southern Company, one of the biggest US utilities. Launched shortly before the 2020 election, the group is led by Susan Waller, a former executive at the pipeline firm Enbridge. Waller said in an email to the Post that Natural Allies “has been fully transparent about our funding members,” which are listed on the group’s website and also include labor unions in the energy industry.

Tim Ryan is another former Democratic senator who is now carrying water for Natural Allies. Recently he argued that methane has helped cut the country’s carbon emissions because it is cleaner than coal. “I don’t think we can get where we need to be with carbon reduction without a robust natural gas strategy,” he said. “We have to continue to be very aggressive in reducing methane,” Ryan said. “There’s no question about it. And I don’t think anyone denies that.”

Methane leaks are a major issue worldwide, one the industry had spent millions of dollars to convince regulators not to crack down on. They claim it is too expensive for many smaller methane producers to do so, as if it should be OK for corporations to pollute if it means putting more money into the pockets of banks and corporate executives. Sure, that makes perfect sense — if you are a bank or corporate executive. For the rest of us, it is slow motion suicide, but the capitalist system has no mechanism to account for such things.

The Politics Of Methane

Natural gas is the most popular method of heating homes in liberal ares of the country, according to Census Bureau data, while electricity is most commonly used in conservative regions. Gas dominates in densely populated New England states with Democratic governors, including Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Electricity reigns in rural Southeastern states with Republican leaders, including Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

A major reason for this trend dates back to 1935 when President FDR created the Rural Electrification Administration to bringing electricity to rural areas. Daniel Tait, a research and communications manager at the Energy and Policy Institute, tells the Post, “I don’t think anybody — even FDR or proponents of a New Deal back in the 1930s — could have foreseen what we see today. It was really just about the provision of basic services. Who knew we would be fighting over it today?”

The trend of targeting gas supplies is deeply troubling to many major utilities, which are watching as some blue states follow the lead of localities that have banned gas. Last year, Washington became the first state in the country to mandate that newly constructed buildings be outfitted with electric space heating and hot water systems. In California, regulators voted in September to phase out the sale of new gas furnaces and water heaters beginning in 2030. And in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul this month endorsed banning the use of fossil fuels by 2025 for smaller new buildings and by 2028 for larger or commercial ones.

At the national level, President Biden this summer signed a landmark climate law that offers households hundreds of dollars to switch from gas-powered appliances to cleaner versions. And the Consumer Product Safety Commission is weighing federal regulations on new gas stoves because of concerns about their harmful indoor air pollution.

Natural Allies doesn’t need to target reactionaries. Twenty states with GOP controlled legislatures have already passed “preemption laws” that prohibit cities from banning gas. And this week, Florida’s arch conservative governor, who is vying for the title of “most despicable human being,” suggested his state should exempt gas stoves from the state sales tax to encourage more people to buy one.

Natural Allies ran an advertising campaign prior to the last midterm election aimed at persuading people in three battleground states — Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan — that gas is clean. Natural Allies found that Black and Hispanic people — a core Democratic constituency — engaged with the ads more than their White counterparts, according to an internal strategy document.

“During this campaign, Natural Allies was particularly focused on determining what messages might resonate with key elements of the Democratic party’s base, anticipating the very scenario the industry is facing today,” the group wrote in an email, adding that the campaign would “position natural gas as an ally, not an adversary, to the Biden Administration’s green energy goals.”

Indeed, on its website, the group says, “Natural gas is a partner in hitting climate targets faster, without sacrificing reliability and affordability.” It touts the reliability of methane power generation and hints darkly that the wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine, and batteries can’t supply electricity forever.

All of that is true, of course, but it is also true that when Texas was hit by record cold temperatures in 2021, the natural gas infrastructure failed catastrophically. Nor does it mention that the Texas debacle was caused, at least in part, by changes in the Earth’s climate created by burning trillions of cubic feet of methane over many years.

Reactionaries are outraged by talk of regulating gas stoves. Texas congressman Ronny Jackson recently borrowed a line from the NRA when he tweeted, “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands.”

Such statements could backfire on an industry that depends on mostly Democratic customers, Spatz warns. “I’m kind of tickled by the idea that [Republicans] are now the spokespeople for gas stoves, because that really is kind of the worst case scenario from a communications perspective if you’re trying to sway a lot of liberal voters,” he said.

The Takeaway

Do Mary Landrieu and Tim Ryan really believe in the benefits of methane or are they just focused on the number of zeros in their bank accounts? They are both being paid handsomely to pitch the benefits of a fossil fuel that is helping make the Earth uninhabitable for humans. There’s a name for people who sell their souls for money, and you probably know what it is.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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