"Natural gas is a better transportation fuel than gasoline, so if that's the case, it's cheaper, it's cleaner and it's a domestic resource."

T. Boone Pickens, Businessman

Pros and Cons of Natural Gas

the upsides and downsides of natural gas

Natural gas is one of our most important energy sources in our current times.

 

It is used for many crucial purposes, including energy production and heating.

 

Even though natural gas has many upsides, there are also many problems related to it. In this article, the pros and cons of natural gas are examined in detail.

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Pros of Natural Gas

  1. Mature technology
  2. Major global source of energy
  3. Relatively safe
  4. Reliable
  5. Not dependent on weather conditions
  6. Abundant energy source
  7. Cleaner than other fossil fuels
  8. Less harmful waste by-products than other fossil fuels
  9. Natural gas can be accessed in many countries
  10. Can be used for fertilizer production
  11. Existing optimized infrastructure around gas
  12. Efficient energy source
  13. Can be used for a variety of different purposes
  14. Cheaper compared to other fossil fuels
  15. Job security
  16. Important complement in the energy transition process

Mature technology

Natural gas has been a quite important energy source over many decades. Thus, it can be regarded to be a quite mature technology which had been optimized over many years. Due to this optimization and maturation process, it can be considered to be one of the most established power sources we as humanity know at a global scale.

 

Major global source of energy

Since natural gas can be extracted and used in many countries all over the globe, the use of natural gas for energy and heating purposes has become quite popular over time. Most countries in our nowadays global society rely on coal, oil or gas as primary energy source in order to be able to meet the energy demand of the local population.

 

Relatively safe

The technology and the use of natural gas in the energy production process can be regarded to be relatively safe. Even though there had been a few incidents over time, the use of natural gas has not been responsible for too many fatalities.

 

Compared to accidents in nuclear power plants where large areas of land will be contaminated with radioactive materials and thousands of people may die from the consequences, natural gas can be considered to be rather safe.

 

Reliable

Due to its maturity and the overall acceptance throughout many industries, natural gas can also be seen as a quite reliable power source. There had been not too many problems in the supply chain related to natural gas over time and there is no reason to believe that this may change in the near future.

 

Not dependent on weather conditions

Another advantage of natural gas is that the power production with gas is independent of outside weather conditions. Compared to alternative energies like wind or solar energy, the energy production with natural gas does not need sunlight or wind in order to work.

 

Thus, natural gas is a quite stable power source, which could be used as a complement to alternative energies until humanity is able to supply enough energy solely by using alternative energies.

 

Abundant energy source

Even though natural gas is a finite resource, there is still plenty of gas available, which may last many decades or even centuries until it is entirely depleted. Therefore, in the short run, natural gas will continue to be an important power source until humanity is able to fully replace fossil through renewable energy sources.

 

Cleaner than other fossil fuels

Although the use of natural gas implies the emission of significant greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it is considered to be less harmful compared to the use of other fossil fuels like coal or oil. Thus, if you still want to use fossil fuels for heating or energy purposes, you should go for natural gas instead of coal or oil in order to improve your ecological footprint. However, even better would be to switch to green energies instead.

 

Less harmful waste by-products than other fossil fuels

While the combustion of other fossil fuels like coal implies the production of harmful by-products, the use of natural gas does not. Therefore, also in terms of waste disposal and hazardous waste production, natural gas can be considered to be eco-friendlier compared to other fossil energy sources.

Natural gas can be accessed in many countries

Since there are natural gas deposits in many countries worldwide, natural gas is a quite popular energy source. Even though the access to natural gas may be harder in poor developing countries since their technological progress is lagging, once those countries become more developed, there would be plenty of natural gas deposits left to access.

 

Can be used for fertilizer production

While natural gas is quite prominent for energy production and heating purposes, components from natural gas can also be used for fertilizer production. Thus, natural gas may also be quite beneficial for agricultural purposes, even though fertilizers should not be excessively used since this may lead to serious soil and groundwater pollution.

 

Existing optimized infrastructure around gas

Since natural gas has been used for many years as primary energy source, there is a huge and optimized infrastructure around this kind of energy. This includes the mining, transportation, processing and energy production in a quite efficient manner.

 

Many companies and whole industries rely on natural gas as primary energy source, which makes it crucial in the short run to ensure our industrial energy supply.

 

Efficient energy source

The use of natural gas can also be considered to be quite efficient compared to most alternative energies. Thus, even though natural gas has many problems, it will still play an important role for many years until the energy transition process has been finished.

 

Can be used for a variety of different purposes

Since natural gas is not only useful in the energy production and heating industry, but may also used for agricultural processes as well as for many other devices, it is quite versatile and flexible. Therefore, the use of natural gas is quite popular among homeowners as well as in industrial processes.

 

Cheaper compared to other fossil fuels

Compared to the energy production with oil, natural gas is often much cheaper regarding the unit price for energy. Thus, not only from an environmental, but also from an economic perspective might it be senseful to switch from oil to gas heating. However, switching to green energies like solar power would be even better in order to improve your ecological footprint.

 

Job security

There are plenty of employees in the gas sector right now. In order to ensure or even create more jobs in this industry, it is crucial that natural gas continues to be an important energy source in the future.

 

However, it should be mentioned that workers in the gas industry might also be able to work in the renewable energies sector if they get proper training.

 

Thus, the safety of jobs in the natural gas sector should be a rather weak argument for the maintenance of this technology.

 

Important complement in the energy transition process

Even though natural gas might not have a bright future in the long run, it is still quite important as a complement in the transition process from fossil to renewable energies in order to ensure the energy supply of millions of people worldwide.

Cons of Natural Gas

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming
  2. Natural gas as non-renewable resource
  3. Air pollution
  4. Acid rain
  5. Ozone depletion
  6. Destruction of habitats through mining
  7. Biodiversity loss
  8. Fracking for gas may lead to earthquakes
  9. Water and soil pollution from fracking
  10. Dependence on other countries
  11. Dependence on world market prices for gas
  12. Transportation of gas may be dangerous
  13. Initial costs for construction of pipelines is quite high
  14. High initial costs for homeowners
  15. Leaks are hard to detect
  16. Accidents
  17. Only little room for improvements

Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming

One major problem of natural gas is that it implies the emission of significant greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Even though the level of greenhouse gas emissions is lower compared to other fossil fuels like coal or oil, it is still much higher compared to many alternative energies.

 

Since greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, we as a global society should reduce the use of natural gas as primary energy source in order to limit the increase in air and water temperature.

 

Natural gas as non-renewable resource

Gas is also a finite resource which can also be considered to be non-renewable since the formation of natural gas usually takes millions of years. Thus, even though there is plenty of natural gas left at the current point in time, we as humanity will run out of this resource.

 

If we haven’t made the transition to renewable energies until this time is reached, we will be in serious trouble since our energy supply might be threatened. Fortunately, countries all over the world put significant efforts in the transition to renewable energies.

 

Thus, it is estimated that in a few decades, we will be able to meet the majority of our energy demand through the use of renewable resources and natural gas will lose its importance as primary power source.

 

Air pollution

In the combustion process of gas for energy production, our air is polluted with significant amounts of harmful gases and other toxic components. In turn, this may lead to serious health issues, especially for people living in regions with low air quality and high levels of emissions.

 

Acid rain

The emission of harmful gases also implies the formation of acid rain. Depending on the severity of emissions, acid rain can lead to serious local environmental issues.

 

For instance, since plants are usually quite sensitive to the acidity levels of the soil, crop yields may significantly decrease due to acid rain, which may lead to serious levels of poverty and starvation, especially in poor developing countries in which the local population relies on crop yields as a primary food source.

 

Ozone depletion

Components in the emissions from natural gas energy production may also contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. They ozone layer protects not only humans, but also our flora and fauna from excessive radiation. If this layer becomes depleted, serious health issues like cancer may become much more common over time.

 

Destruction of habitats through mining

Since natural gas has been extracted out of the ground through mining or fracking processes, large areas of land have to be used and processed. In turn, this may lead to serious habitat destruction since many animals will lose their home and may be forced to relocate. Many plants in the affected regions may also die off.

 

Biodiversity loss

The destruction of natural habitats through human intervention that is implied by the extraction of natural gas also implies a significant loss of biodiversity. Many plants may not be able to adapt to these new conditions and may suffer from a serious decrease in population. Moreover, since many animals will lose their natural living conditions, they may also become endangered or even extinct.

 

Fracking for gas may lead to earthquakes

Even though it has not been proven yet, fracking in the context of the extraction of natural gas is also considered to be able to cause earthquakes. Thus, the extraction of natural gas may indirectly cause the death of many people and may also destroy important infrastructure of several sorts.

Water and soil pollution from fracking

The fracking process is considered to be quite harmful to our environment. Critics of this technique often point out that it may lead to serious pollution levels. Since plenty of chemicals are used in the fracking process, it can lead to serious water contamination and soil pollution, which in turn will significantly hurt the local flora and fauna and may also contaminate our groundwater.

 

Dependence on other countries

Countries who do not have plenty of natural gas deposits may rely on other countries in order to be supplied with sufficient natural gas.

 

However, this economic dependence also often implies a political dependence, which may often result in rather unfavorable outcomes for the country who is dependent on a specific resource.

 

Thus, by using renewable alternative energies instead, countries could lower their level of dependence on other countries and therefore increase their political freedom.

 

Dependence on world market prices for gas

The dependence on fossil fuels like natural gas also implies the dependence on world market prices for those resources. Thus, countries which still rely on natural gas as primary energy source in the future may get in serious trouble if the world market prices for gas increase dramatically. Thus, switching from fossil to renewable energies might be a good idea also in an economic and political context.

 

Transportation of gas may be dangerous

There might also be issues related to the transportation process of natural gas. Since gas is highly flammable, transportation accidents may lead to serious explosions and may lead to injuries or even to the death of a number of people.

 

Initial costs for construction of pipelines is quite high

Even though the unit price for energy from gas is rather low, the initial construction costs for gas pipelines can be quite high. Thus, the overall costs that are implied in the production and distribution chain may be significantly higher than most people might expect.

 

High initial costs for homeowners

Moreover, also the initial installation costs for homeowners related to natural gas heating might be significant. It can cost up to 30,000 USD to buy and install a natural gas heating system. Therefore, this money might be better invested in alternative green energies like solar power since natural gas might lose its importance in the long run.

 

Leaks are hard to detect

Since natural gas is odorless and invisible, it is quite hard to detect leaks. Thus, most of the leaks are only detected once its too late and explosions have taken place. This makes natural gas quite dangerous, especially for people who are not experienced in the handling of this resource.

 

Accidents

Even though the number of accidents related to the use of gas heating or energy production is rather low, there are still some people dying from those accidents every year. Thus, switching from fossil fuels like gas to safer technologies like solar power would not only be beneficial for our environment, it might also increase your overall safety level.

 

Only little room for improvements

In contrast to many alternative energies which have still huge potential for technological advancements, the technologies related to natural gas are quite mature and only have little room for improvements in efficiency. Thus, at one point in time, natural gas may lose its importance due to efficiency improvements related to other alternative energies.

Natural Gas Pros & Cons - Summary List

Natural Gas Pros

Mature energy source

Major global power source

Safe energy

Reliable energy

Independent of weather conditions

Abundance of gas

Cleaner compared to other fossil fuels

Less harmful by-products

Can be accessed in many countries

Also usuable for fertilizer production

Existing infrastructure

Efficient energy

Usuable for many different purposes

Cheaper than other fossil fuels

Many jobs rely on natural gas

Important in the energy transition process

Natural Gas Cons

Contribution to global warming

Non-renewable

Air pollution

Acid rain

Ozone layer depletion

Destruction of habitats

Loss of biodiversity

Fracking may contribute to earthquakes

Water & soil pollution

Dependence on other nations

Dependence on gas world market prices

Dangerous transportation

High pipeline construction costs

High initial costs for homeowners

Leaks may be hard to detect

Radiation of coal power plants

Explosions and other accidents

Little room for improvements


Conclusion

Natural gas has been a primary energy source over the past decades. However, there are many issues related to the use of natural gas that will significantly lower the importance of natural gas in the future.

 

Even though it will play an important role as a complement in the energy transition process in order to ensure a base load of energy, it will no longer be a primary energy source once this transition to renewable energies has been accomplished.

Sources

About the author

 

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

 

As I went to university and got my Master's degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

 

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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