How natural gas could fuel the future

Energy Summit highlights 

Bret Lane

Speaker, Bret Lane

Excerpt from: Forum

Kern County is the perfect location to talk about the future of energy. It’s been a traditional energy hub for California and the entire nation, and now it is becoming a new center for renewable energy. This week at the 8th Annual Kern County Energy Summit, the future of the energy industry was earnestly discussed, especially the role of natural gas in fueling our economy.

Today, abundant supplies of low-priced natural gas are fueling a manufacturing rebirth in the South while cleaning the air in the Northeast and Midwest by displacing fuel oil for heating and coal for electric generation. And here in California there is reason for optimism too, because this same abundant energy resource can help clean our air and fuel our economy.

But some Californians view natural gas as a dirty fossil fuel. Some lawmakers and regulators continue to try to eliminate natural gas use by seeking to move to an all-electric system.

Natural gas touches most people’s lives every day for cooking, bathing and heating their homes. And natural gas is a key resource used to generate nearly half the electricity we all use. Natural gas will continue to deliver on California’s energy needs, clean the air, improve our environment, and create jobs and grow our economy.

California has the most challenging air quality problem in the nation, with increasingly strict emission standards. Yet much of the media and political focus is on climate change and needed reductions of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). What many people are not talking about is that if our air quality goals are not met, the federal government could step in with economic sanctions and even more harsh emissions mandates.

The good news is that there is so much more that natural gas can do including providing fuel for heavy duty trucks and buses, rail and even port operations — among the largest sources of pollution throughout the state. Not only is natural gas more affordable than gasoline or diesel fuel, but it’s also much cleaner – helping reduce emissions and meet federal air quality requirements. We’re also working on new technology that will enable many of our customers to economically generate “renewable” natural gas from landfills, agricultural waste, and water treatment plants that could be used in our pipelines or to power fuel cell vehicles.

While regulators continue to seek emission reductions, it’s important to acknowledge that the natural gas sector has already achieved the state’s 2020 goal for reducing greenhouse gases. Energy efficiency programs offered by Southern California Gas Company have helped residential, business and industrial customers save more than 500 million therms of natural gas over the last 22 years. That’s equal to taking more than half a million cars off the road.



One thing our industry knows is that if we want to help fuel the future, we have to get our core business right. This means continuing to provide safe and reliable natural gas to our customers. That’s why we invest billions of dollars in maintaining our system. And we are currently working on our largest capital project in the company’s history, the Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan, or PSEP.

PSEP is a California Public Utilities Commission mandate that requires all California utilities to pressure test or replace certain transmission pipelines. PSEP has both safety and economic benefits.

Research performed by Rea & Parker Research at SoCalGas’ request found that the first phase of PSEP alone will generate an economic infusion of more than $2.4 billion. For Southern California, PSEP investments are expected to generate $1.9 billion in overall economic activity and create or retain more than 1,800 direct jobs. When you count indirect jobs impacted by PSEP, the number increases to 14,000.

California’s challenges are real, but not insurmountable. In fact, the future is bright, because natural gas can deliver the energy Californians expect and demand, while improving air quality, reaching environmental goals, and fueling economic development and job creation.

Bret Lane is chief operating officer of Southern California Gas Company. He was a keynote speaker for the 8th Annual Kern County Energy Summit on Nov. 12.

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