It sounded good a few years ago: natural gas, cleaner than coal and better for the environment.

But now burning more natural gas is sounding like the wrong turn at the wrong time. Extracting natural gas leads to increased leaks of methane, a contributor to global warming that in its first 20 years in the atmosphere heats up the climate 80 times more than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. Studies show a big increase in methane over the last decade that corresponds to the rise in fracking for natural gas in shale formations.

Unfortunately, Duke Energy’s plans are locked into the positive spin on natural gas. And North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper supports a major element of that natural gas-dependent future: the construction of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline that could support new Duke Energy power plants fueled by natural gas.

Drew Shindell, a Duke University professor and climate scientist who helped coordinate reports by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, has written Cooper to call for a halt to the expanding use of natural gas.

Twenty seven former Environmental Protection Agency scientists and administrators endorsed the letter.

It’s still true that pipelines can be part of an efficient transition to cleaner fuels. But that rationale is starting to melt away as the threat of climate change grows and the cost of renewable energy declines and delays keep increasing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s cost.

Cooper would do well to consider Shindell’s appeal and think again about the cost to the environment and to consumers of building North Carolina’s future around natural gas.

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From The News & Observer of Raleigh:

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