“Clean” methane gas? Fossil fuel disinformation is becoming law
Lawmakers in Ohio and now Tennessee have passed bills in recent months that categorize “natural” gas as “clean” or “green” energy. And your state could be the next target for this fossil fuel industry disinformation campaign.
These bills blatantly contradict the assertions of renowned energy experts, including the International Energy Agency, which calls for an immediate pivot from gas to clean electricity — including no new oil and gas drilling and no new gas furnaces installed by 2025. They also ignore gas’s well-documented health harms, including air pollution from fracking, gas plants and gas appliances in our homes.
“Natural” gas is almost entirely methane — a climate super pollutant more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Research shows that methane leaks all the time at all stages of the gas system. Fracking wells often release unburned methane straight into the atmosphere. Pipelines leak methane constantly, as do our homes’ gas stoves and furnaces. Taking this methane pollution into account, gas’s emissions likely cancel out any climate gains from our reduced reliance on coal.
These bills aren’t just PR stunts: the Tennessee bill would require any cities setting clean electricity goals to count gas power as “clean” as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the region’s largest utility, moves to build more gas plants.
Fossil fuel-funded dark money groups have their fingerprints all over this effort. The Washington Post reported that Ohio’s bill was pushed behind the scenes by The Empowerment Alliance, which has ties to the state’s fracking industry, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a think tank that produces industry-friendly model legislation.
These problematic bills emerge as the gas industry is under growing scrutiny for its misleading marketing strategies. A coalition of environmental organizations, including Gas Leaks, recently petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to provide updated guidelines on how gas can be marketed, specifically regarding the use of terms like “clean,” “natural,” and “renewable.” In recent years the industry has been exposed for covertly sponsoring social media and television influencers to promote methane gas, often without disclosing the industry’s involvement.
These bills effectively authorize fossil fuel disinformation, potentially enabling the continued expansion of the methane gas system. That’s bad news for the climate, communities and public health.