Email insights: Florida relies too much on natural gas, says Union of Concerned Scientists


The natural gas pushback has begun.

Hot on the heels of news that another public access compressed natural gas station has opened in North Florida, a new analysis is out suggesting that Florida is one of several states “relying too much on natural gas” rather than turning to renewable energy sources like wind or solar power.

The analysis, Rating the States on Their Risk of Natural Gas Overreliance, comes courtesy of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The emailed report examines each state’s natural gas past, present and future to determine its risk of natural gas dependency and finds that Florida and 15 other states are at high risk of over-relying on natural gas.

According to the report, 62 percent of Florida’s in-state electricity generation already comes from natural gas plants — up from 48 percent in 2008.

“Natural gas has been important for moving the country away from coal, but substituting our dependence on one fossil fuel for another isn’t going to pay off in the long run, and poses problems for consumers now and later,” says John Rogers, senior energy analyst at UCS and report co-author. “States and utilities are the one’s gambling on natural gas, but consumers will ultimately pay for these bad bets.”

Natural gas use is proliferating around the state, in utilities, shipping, public transit, among government vehicle fleets, and more.

Indeed, how to add natural gas into an overall future energy mix is on the agenda of the Florida Energy Summit, happening in Jacksonville this week.

But just how big a factor seems to be where energy advocates’ paths diverge.

Clean energy advocates are trying to make the case that utilities are jumping too rapidly to replace their aging coal fleets with natural gas plants, due to high coal costs and low natural gas prices. Their future scenario envisions natural gas infrastructure being under-utilized or abandoned as renewables begin to outperform gas in affordability.

On the other hand, fans of natural gas are quick to point out that the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. Their argument: natural gas is cheap and fills a peak power niche in the electricity grid.

By 2040, The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that natural gas will expand to provide 31 percent of the nation’s generation needs as renewables grow to 18 percent.


Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected].


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