When it comes to powering our homes, there are many things that we, as humans, take for granted — such as the ability to turn on lights, use heating and air conditioning, cook meals, run the dishwasher, do laundry. All the comforts of modern life are here to stay, and they certainly make life much easier.
But in the past several years, the conversation has shifted to discuss alternative sources of energy. While traditional electricity is created by burning fossil fuels (such as coal and petroleum), natural gas has been slowly but surely moving towards center stage. But what are the benefits? Is it just as efficient? How can you figure out which one would work best for you?
Just as coal and petroleum are found beneath the Earth's surface, natural gas is sourced from deep under rock formations under the soil. Its main component is methane, and it is formed the same way fossil fuels are formed — through the decomposition of plants and animals who roamed the planet hundreds and millions of years ago. The heat that emanates from the Earth's core turned these decomposing organisms into coal and oil, while a portion of them turned into natural gas.
Both sources of energy are obtained by drilling through layers of rock to reach these deposits. Once they are reached, they are extracted to the surface by pouring high-pressure water, sand, or other chemicals through wells. It is then taken to processing plants to remove certain contaminants and to add odor. This is done so that leaks can be detected if there's a leak in gas pipelines.
Most states receive energy from local suppliers that the government regulates via the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the existing energy market. Their purpose is to ensure the welfare of consumers by promoting a safe and reliable energy distribution at relatively reasonable prices.
Under FERC, states can decide whether they want to offer their residents regulated or deregulated energy. The reasoning behind these options is that consumers should be the ones who ultimately decide where their power comes from. This comes with the benefit of opening the market to additional competitors.
The argument regarding whether it's better to have a deregulated energy market is lengthy. Its opponents believe that the government should regulate essential services and that private companies cannot ensure energy supplies to more rural areas. As for those who support it, lower energy costs and additional innovation are good enough reasons to provide consumers with options.
There are several benefits to switching to natural gas to power your home or business. These include:
This depends on your supplier. However, since deregulated states offer more options to consumers, service providers have an incentive to provide competitive prices.
Many jurisdictions already have a gas pipeline in place. In fact, the United States has the most extensive natural gas infrastructure in the world. This is because the industry is becoming more widely popular, which has increased market demand.
While natural gas is still a fossil fuel, it emits lower levels of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and carbon dioxide. Therefore, it burns cleaner than carbon and petroleum. And while it's not as green as solar or wind energy, it's widely available, making it more cost-effective for families on a budget.
Granted, there are also negative aspects you should consider when researching the best available energy options for your needs. Specifically, the cons of natural gas include:
Although natural gas is more environmentally friendly than burning oil, the extraction process is still damaging to the environment, especially since the gas is mainly composed of methane, a greenhouse gas.
Gas leaks are dangerous, both at the home level and from the pipeline level. If it's at home, the added odor generally alerts homeowners and the danger can be averted. But when it occurs from the pipeline infrastructure, it can build up until it becomes explosive. And in the meantime, it can kill animals and vegetation.
Now, let's take a look at the positive aspects of powering your home or business with traditional electricity:
You already have it. You know it's efficient. And you can generate both heating and cooling using the same equipment. And even if you switch to natural gas or any other source of alternative energy, you will still need electricity to power your air conditioning system.
Transporting and delivering electric power doesn't come with the risk of doing the same with natural gas. And even when providers generate electricity through cleaner sources — such as solar, wind, or hydroelectric — the service still gets delivered through the same infrastructure.
As for the negatives, it's what you would usually expect when discussing a home or business' carbon footprint:
Burning fossil fuels will always be detrimental to the environment. Specifically, coal is one of the most polluting sources — which can be disheartening, considering that it's one of the most commonly used energy sources in the country.
Powering a building with electricity is generally more expensive than using other sources of energy. And if you don't have energy-efficient heat pumps, you could be spending twice as much as you would with a high-efficiency one.
As you can see, either source has its benefits and disadvantages. Which one would work best for you depends on your energy needs, budget, and geographical location.
At Atlantic Energy, we are committed to providing reliable, energy-efficient solutions for households across America. We offer natural gas and electric services to both residential and commercial clients. In fact, we provide natural gas services to ten states:
New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you reduce energy costs and make your life at home or business a lot easier.