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Topic: Natural Gas

[Episode #148] – Energy and Emissions after COVID

What trajectory of global energy consumption and carbon emissions can we expect as the world starts to recover from the COVID pandemic in the years ahead? Will we go right back to our activities and travel habits as they were before the pandemic? Or have structural changes already taken place that put us on a different path?

In this episode, we speak with the co-head of the World Energy Outlook series at the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), who helps design and direct the construction of their energy scenarios and their guidance to the world’s governments. We discuss three major reports that IEA has issued over the past six months on energy demand and emissions as a result of COVID, and have a look at how much energy demand dropped in 2020, how the fuel demand in various sectors and countries changed, and what the world might expect in 2021 and beyond.

Geek rating: 4

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[Episode #145] – A Slow Take on the Texas Blackout

In the middle of February 2021, an Arctic cold front wreaked havoc on Texas, causing a blackout that plunged more than 4 million customers into darkness and cold during single-digit temperatures. The crisis led to the deaths of nearly 200 people and an estimated $50 billion changed hands, saddling millions of customers, including ones in neighboring states, with unexpected excess costs.

What happened in Texas is an incredibly complex story involving many factors, from a simple lack of weatherization, to flaws in the state’s electricity market structure, to failed governance. And untangling that story, and identifying ways to prevent such a crisis from ever happening again, is a complex task. To help us with it, we invited several Energy Transition Show alumni—journalist Russell Gold of the Wall Street Journal, professor Emily Grubert of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and legal scholar Ari Peskoe of Harvard Law School—to join us in a four-way conversation that explores all the angles.

Geek rating: 8

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[Episode #143] – Hydrogen Economy 2.0 Part 2

This is part two of our three-hour interview with Dr. Simon Evans of Carbon Brief about their extensive survey of the developing hydrogen economy.

In part one of this interview, which we featured in Episode #142, we discussed the current expectations for the hydrogen economy, the various projections for hydrogen production and use; the different methods of producing hydrogen and the names we use to refer to them; the state of the global hydrogen business today; the potential roles that hydrogen might play in tackling climate change; and the questions around what hydrogen costs today and may cost in the future.

In this second part, we’ll talk about the various potential applications of hydrogen sector by sector and by use, and attempt to start sorting out where hydrogen might really have an edge, and where it might be just a potential application that might never become a commercial reality.

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #142] – Hydrogen Economy 2.0 Part 1

Everyone seems to be excited about hydrogen lately, pointing out its many potential applications and claiming that a global hydrogen economy is a key strategy in energy transition. But how much of what we’re hearing is real, and how much of it is hype? What are all the ways that hydrogen is being produced, what is the global capacity for producing it now, what kind of investment would be needed to its production up to the needed levels, and where does hydrogen have a clear and tangible edge over competing technologies or energy sources?

In this episode, we present part one of a two-part, three-hour interview with Dr. Simon Evans, the deputy editor and policy editor for Carbon Brief, in which he shares their findings from dozens of interviews they conducted with experts who are knowledgeable about hydrogen’s potential, as well as from dozens of research reports and other resources.

In this first part of the interview, we’ll talk about the expectations for Hydrogen Economy 2.0; the various projections for hydrogen production and use; the different methods of producing hydrogen and the names we use to refer to them; the state of the global hydrogen business today; the potential roles that hydrogen might play in tackling climate change; and the questions around what hydrogen costs today and may cost in the future.

In part 2 of this interview, which will run as Episode #143, we’ll talk about the various potential applications of hydrogen sector by sector and use by use, and attempt to start sorting out where hydrogen might really have an edge, and where it might be just a potential application that might never become a commercial reality. So stay tuned for that!

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #140] – Methane Leakage

Methane (natural gas) is a greenhouse gas with a much more powerful warming effect than carbon dioxide, so finding and eliminating gas leaks is an important part of addressing the climate challenge. But until now, we’ve had poor information about gas leakage within cities, as well as how to correctly attribute the leakage all along the chain from well to consumer.

In this episode we discuss a study, The Gas Index, with two of its authors. It is the first study that has provided granular estimates for life cycle methane leakage for a large number of cities, and the first to draw together recent assessments of leakage within cities, including leakage that occurs within buildings. It shows that cities’ gas systems are leaking about 72% more than had been previously estimated by the EPA.

We also consider the role of natural gas in the energy transition, and some of the tradeoffs we will have to consider as we deal with the problem of methane leakage.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #131] – Decarbonizing the US by 2050

Is it possible to decarbonize the economy of the United States, and get to net-zero emissions by 2050? A team of researchers from 15 countries who are part of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project think so, based on their deep modeling of the US economy as part of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). We introduced this work at a high level in Episode #129, during our conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the SDSN. In this episode, we take a deep dive into the modeling itself with one of the modelers involved in the project. We’ll look at the specific energy technologies, devices, and grid management strategies that will make decarbonization by 2050 possible, and see why they think that decarbonizing the US is not only achievable by 2050, but practical, and very, very affordable.

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #130] – 5-Year Anniversary Show

In this anniversary episode, we welcome back Jonathan Koomey to talk about some of the interesting developments and raucous debates we have seen over the past year. We’ll consider how expectations have changed for coal and gas-fired electricity generation; we’ll discuss the changed outlook for natural gas appliances; we’ll talk about the growing support for “just transition” strategies integrating climate and environmental justice objectives to ensure that energy transition leaves no one behind; we’ll summarize the latest developments in the ongoing debate over climate scenarios; we’ll discuss some of the new models around what an 80, 90, or 100% renewable energy system might look like; and we’ll review a slew of stories about corruption investigations into legacy energy companies, several of which we first covered two and three years ago.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #115] – Wildfire and Transition in Australia

Australia’s out-of-control wildfires in recent months have captured the world’s attention and raised serious questions about how climate change is affecting the continent, whether the country’s leadership is taking appropriate action to address climate risk, and what the future holds for its unique weather patterns and ecosystem.

But Australia is one of the most fossil-fuel dependent countries in the world, which makes it politically difficult to face the reality of its climate risk, and how its own activities are increasing that risk. So in this episode we invited a longtime journalist and researcher, based in Sydney, who works in research, strategy, and communications around climate change and finance, to help us understand the political, economic, and climate context of Australia at this moment, and to understand how the wildfires are influencing the trajectory of energy transition there. She reveals a country delicately balanced somewhere between hope and despair, with political leadership in thrall to the fossil fuel industry, and a populace eager to pursue energy transition and reduce its exposure to climate risk.

Geek rating: 1

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[Episode #78] – 3-Year Anniversary on the Jonathan Koomey Omnibus

Veteran energy researcher Jonathan Koomey rejoins us for another anniversary show! In this episode we talk about California’s new plan to obtain 100% carbon-free power; the potential for “peak gas” as utility-scale solar-plus-storage and wind plants beat gas on price in the US; the outlook for nuclear power in the West; how to know when the numbers you’re seeing aren’t right, and how to understand data; and the degree to which energy transition can help us stay below 2 degrees C of warming. We also discuss some of the confusing issues with energy data and how that influences our forecasts for primary energy consumption, and we’ll talk about the future need for climate modeling. It’s a wide-ranging, fast-paced romp through all sorts of geeky energy topics that definitely deserves its Geek Rating!

Geek rating: 10

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[Episode #73] – Regulatory Capture

Utility regulators are playing an increasingly important role in steering the energy transition of the power grid. However, many regulators aren’t equipped to sort through arguments put forward by competing interests, because they often need to consider highly technical questions that only a power system engineer, or a market design expert could properly evaluate. Some regulators are simply political appointees who may or may not have the appropriate technical expertise, while others are elected by the public, who in turn may not be able to evaluate the technical expertise of the people they are electing. As a result, it is quite common for regulators to depend on the guidance of the companies they are supposed to regulate, and for those companies to seek as much leverage or control over their regulators as they can get—a problem known as regulatory capture.

In this episode we’ll delve into the problem of regulatory capture, and what might be done about it, with the help of Gary Wolfram, a professor and the Director of Economics and Political Economy at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. He has published extensively on public policy and taxpayer rights, on the role of government in capitalist market economies, and on the governance and incentive structures of utilities…and we promise that this interview will be a lot more accessible and interesting than this dry description may make it sound!

Geek rating: 6

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