May 17, 2011

Wishful Thinking: Replacing Coal with Natural Gas

This innovative map from the Post Carbon Institute (original source here) shows the location and relative size of U.S. electrical generating capacity. Expectations that natural gas might replace coal in electricity generation are wishful thinking at best, according to the Institute. Not only are reserves of natural gas greatly exaggerated, but there are also serious limitations in infrastructure. According to a study by the Aspen Environmental Group, these include "the lack of sufficient pipeline capacity in 21 states as well as the lack of storage capacity on the East Coast, in the Central Plains states, and in Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, and Missouri." Looking at the map suggests, quite strikingly, that a vast area stretching from Illinois and Missouri in the west to Pennsylvania to Georgia in the east is entirely dominated by coal and nuclear.

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