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Event Recap: Leveraging Natural Gas Networks to Achieve Net-Zero

Establishing a comprehensive strategy for natural gas network decarbonization can be instrumental to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and would provide stakeholders time to plan for the long-term. Abandoning gas infrastructure, as some critics of natural gas are advocating, would actually delay the achievement of net-zero and increase the costs of the transition significantly.

On March 29, the BPC Energy Program hosted an event with industry specialists in energy supply and proliferation to discuss how natural gas networks remain in play today and in the future. It featured opening remarks from House Committee on Energy and Commerce member Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) followed by a panel discussion with Maryam Brown, President of SoCalGas, Joseph Hezir, Principal and Executive Vice President of Energy Futures Initiative, and Ralph Cavanagh, Energy Co-Director of the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

While expansion of natural gas production and distribution is necessary in the short- and medium-term for U.S. energy security and geopolitical reasons, transitioning to renewables is critical to reach net-zero by 2050, as highlighted by Rep. Peters. The congressman emphasized the importance of regulation of our extensive natural gas networks and natural gas production. During his chat with BPC’s Executive Director of the Energy Program Sasha Mackler, Rep. Peters explained how liquid natural gas (LNG) infrastructure provides a blueprint for potential alternative fuel use and proliferation, including hydrogen and biofuels, as this network can be transitioned to carry renewable fuels. The need to manage carbon dioxide and methane emissions in the near future demonstrates a clear incentive to develop carbon capture and sequestration technologies and performance-based methane controls.

With natural gas consumption needing to decline gradually, the panel discussed how clean technologies can fill the void in the energy mix. Brown stressed the importance of ambitious clean energy projects like Angeles Link, which will provide the Los Angeles area with massive amounts of zero-emissions, renewable fuel and electricity through solar, wind, and green hydrogen. Understanding the logistics and management of modern pipeline networks is integral to future deployment of net-zero projects. Cavanagh and Hezir highlighted the need to speed up and streamline the permitting process so that other necessary infrastructure projects like Angeles Link will be up and running fast enough to contribute to the net-zero transition.

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Right now, I'm working to strengthen the 45Q tax credit — developing new legislation to help deploy carbon dioxide removal technologies. … this is the right time for the federal government to step in and provide early support for the development of this critical technology. The oil and gas industry is uniquely positioned to be leaders in carbon dioxide removal.
Rep. Scott Peters
So, the things we need to be focusing now on are improving the systems we have in place, as we think about what the new systems will be. … [this is] why I focus on methane. We're going to be using LNG for the foreseeable future for some decades. Let's make sure it's clean. Let's do what we can do to make gasoline burn cleaner. I think all those things are to the good, and this is an example of industry stepping up, which is great.
Rep. Scott Peters
… clean fuels like hydrogen and renewable natural gas, combined with electrification and fuel cells and carbon management provide the most affordable, most resilient, most technologically proven, most equitable pathway to get to net zero. And the reason for this is that electrification and clean fuels really are perfect partners. When you combine the strengths of renewable electricity from solar and wind with the strengths of clean fuels like hydrogen and renewable natural gas, that is our fastest way to get to net zero.
Maryam Brown
Last week, it was reported that Jamie Dimon made a recommendation to the President that a Marshall plan be adopted for supporting Europe in the energy context. And that's a great idea, but important takeaway from the Marshall plan is that it had very strong bipartisan support, right? And I think that that's what makes work at organizations like the Bipartisan Policy Center so very important. We need to be very careful as we move forward, that these twin goals of energy security and the clean energy transition, that they don't get bifurcated. And it doesn't become a false choice between one and the other.
Maryam Brown
We have to be able to do these projects faster. The environmental community has developed a rooting interest in transmission, which is showing up in support, for example, of all that the bipartisan infrastructure bill did to start to make a dent in those unnecessary delays. And I predict that if Maryam can make dedicated hydrogen pipelines carrying green hydrogen a reality, a lot of environmental groups will discover that the word pipeline has taken on a whole new meaning. And I look forward to being there when it happens.
Ralph Cavanagh
And we see a lot of opportunities there for carbon removal, as well as the need for carbon removal, because ultimately, it's not just a matter of getting to net-zero to get to a 1.5 degree C scenario in the future, we ultimately will probably need to get to net negative emissions. And you can't get there without carbon removal technologies. We see a lot of need for innovation there over the next decade. But we do see the potential there that this would be a strategy that could go along with issues like efficiency, clean fuels, and carbon removal as all contributing, making major contributions to a net-zero future.
Joseph Hezir

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