LA Ditches Plans To Invest In Fossil Fuels Despite Experts Dire Warnings

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Los Angeles is ditching a plan to rebuild several natural gas plants on the coast, Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday night, but experts warn the decision to scuttle the plan will likely cause more blackouts across the city.

Staffers at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) argued in December that the aging Scattergood, Harbor and Haynes power plants are critical to keeping the lights on in the city. They argue that eliminating plans to rebuild and refurbish the plants could seriously impact the grid.

Garcetti is unmoved. “It’s the right thing to do for our health. It’s the right thing to do for our Earth. It’s the right thing to do for our economy,” he said. “And now is the time to start the beginning of the end of natural gas.”

“This is the Green New Deal,” Garcetti added, referring to a new set of climate policies pushed by progressive lawmakers and several current presidential candidates. “Not in concept, not in the future, but now.” The so-called Green New Deal would phase out all fossil fuels within the next decade and essentially remake the entire American economy.

Washington, DC – April 29, 2017: Thousands of people attend the People’s Climate March to stand up against climate change. (Shutterstock/Nicole S Glass)

Activists frequently argue that natural gas production creates high levels of pollution. Recent data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency appear to complicate that narrative.

EPA found greenhouse gas emissions, mostly carbon dioxide, fell 2.7 percent from 2016 to 2017, based on data from more than 8,000 large facilities. Emissions from large power plants fell 4.5 percent from 2016 levels, according to EPA.

One of the major reasons for the cut in emissions is the availability of low-priced natural gas. In the last decade, drillers have been able to use hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to unlock vast shale gas reserves.

Low-priced natural gas has replaced much U.S. coal-fired capacity in recent years, which has in turn lowered emissions. Additions of wind and solar energy have also played a smaller role in reducing emissions. (RELATED: US CO2 Emissions Plummet Under Trump While The Rest Of The World Emits More)

DWP management signaled in support in December for replacing some of the gas-fired generators with newer, more efficient machines equipped with dry-cooling units. Utility officials believe batteries charged with solar or wind power are not reliable enough to replace gas plants without causing power outages.

Nearly a fifth of the city’s electricity in 2017 came from the Intermountain coal plant in Utah, which is scheduled to be decommissioned in six years. The biggest share of LA’s mix – 31 percent – came from natural gas that year, most of which came from Scattergood, Harbor and Haynes power plants.

“We’re trying to maintain system reliability,” Reiko Kerr, senior assistant general manager for power system engineering, told reporters. “We could go to 100% renewables today if we want to accept more outages.”

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