Last week’s letter by Northwest Natural Gas (EW, 7/26) misses several points and leads readers astray. Everyone agrees: affordable heating is crucial, and cooling is becoming more important as climate change produces hotter, longer summers.
Jon Kloor ignores these facts: EWEB provides heating to many more customers than does NWN gas, and has financial assistance programs for residents in need.
A huge factor omitted in NWN’s calculus is the “externalized” costs of its greenhouse gas emissions — negative social and financial consequences of climate change, like health problems, agricultural losses, and more floods and fires.
Renewable natural gas (biogas) systems from agricultural, wastewater or landfill sources might be brought online in the future. But NWN has proposed no replacement scenarios projecting carbon savings over time. Even if all waste resources were optimized, biogas would replace only a fraction of current supply. The “30 percent carbon savings by 2035” goal is a tiny contribution to what’s necessary to adequately address current GHG emissions.
Most important for Eugene’s Climate Action Plan is the data concerning NWN emissions right here at home. In 2015, natural gas used by NWN’s 30,000 customers produced 243,000 metric tons of CO2, as compared to 30,000 metric tons produced by EWEB’s 86,000 customers — that’s eight times more, produced by fewer than half as many customers (2016 Eugene Community GHG Inventory).
We share NWN’s goal of a renewable-energy future, and we respect their right to engage in a profit-making business — but not at the expense of Eugene’s residents.