As power utilities across the country move to retire dirty coal-powered plants, they claim that transitioning from coal to natural gas is an “enabling” method of transition to a clean, renewable energy future. Unfortunately, this is misleading and not only delays the transition to clean energy but wastes customers’ money on greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels.

The natural gas delivered to your home is 85% to 95% methane, a gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.

According to The Conversation, which contributed to a study in Science magazine, there are “500,000 natural gas wells in the U.S., 2 million miles of pipes and millions of valves, fittings, tanks, compressors and other components operating 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to deliver natural gas.” All along the journey from the extraction site to transmission to distribution to the burning on your kitchen range, methane gas is leaking. Most of the gas is extracted by a process called fracking, which is injecting a mixture of water and toxic chemicals under pressure to release the gas.

In Superior, the proposed natural gas-powered Nemadji Trail Energy Center would release an estimated 2.7 million tons of greenhouse gases every year of operation. The impacts of increasing greenhouse-gas emissions can only move us toward the worst-case scenario of climate change, including more heat waves, flooding, and storms, as well as poorer air quality and more deleterious health effects. Additionally, the current federal administration is easing methane regulations, which will have profound climate and health impacts.

If we care at all about the environmental legacy we leave to future generations, we need to move rapidly and robustly toward clean, renewable energy — as fast as possible with no intermediate half measures.

Linda Herron