Climate change is a problem that has grown exponentially in recent years. As a result, there is a lot of pressure to choose more eco-friendly energy sources, like natural gas, to help the environment. But is natural gas renewable? Could it truly be the best, most sustainable alternative to fossil fuel? Keep reading to find out what natural gas is and the impact it really has on the environment.
What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a type of gas that forms deep beneath the Earth’s surface. Some of the most common types of natural gas are methane, propane, and butane. When organic matter trapped beneath the Earth starts to decompose, several chemical reactions occur. Over millions of years, these reactions produce natural gas.
In simple terms, natural gas comes from the same processes that create fossil fuels. But doesn’t that technically make it non-renewable?
The short answer is: yes and no. Natural gases are classified as renewable and non-renewable based on where they come from. Methane, one of the most commonly available natural gases, comes from fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels aren’t the only sources of methane.
You may have heard of cow farts producing methane as well. This is true! Even when it’s above ground, when organic matter decomposes, it releases a natural pipeline gas. This biogas undergoes several biochemical processes that transform it into something called biomethane. Biomethane has all the features of regular methane. Therefore, it can easily be used as fuel.
The reason biomethane is classified as renewable while fossil fuel methane isn’t is that it comes from a renewable source. You can take waste found in landfills and livestock farms and easily convert it into biomethane. On the other hand, fossil fuel methane comes from finite oil stores that take millions of years to form.
Is Natural Gas More Environmentally Friendly?
Because it is classified as renewable, many promote natural gas as one of the best eco-friendly fuel alternatives. But is this really the case?
If we compare natural gas to fossil fuel, natural gas is definitely less harmful. When it powers a car, it emits 20% less heat-trapping gasses than gasoline. What’s more, it produces much smaller amounts of common air pollutants like mercury, sulfur, and nitrogen oxide. So by driving a methane-powered car, you will produce much less toxic smog.
Furthermore, natural gas is way more abundant than fossil fuel, which makes it a much cheaper energy source than oil or diesel. If you’re worried about the cost of going green, know that natural gas would actually save you money in comparison to using oil or diesel-powered cars.
However, all these added benefits do not mean that natural gas is the most eco-friendly choice. Fossil fuel methane still needs fossil fuel to exist. Plus, mining natural gas is actually more harmful than mining fossil fuel since natural gas is found much deeper beneath the Earth’s surface.
Biomethane might also seem like a better option since it comes from organic material. However, it’s still a greenhouse gas, which means that it produces excess CO2.
All in all, natural gas is more eco-friendly than fossil fuel. But when compared to better renewable energy sources like solar energy, it doesn’t quite measure up.
So, is natural gas renewable? It depends on whether it comes from fossil fuels or organic matter. While natural gas is better than fossil fuel, it still produces significant carbon emissions, making it less than ideal for the environment. Therefore, if you’re thinking about going green, perhaps exploring alternative energy sources, like solar energy, would be a better option.