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Disadvantages of Natural Gas

Before you make a costly and near-permanent switch of your heating fuel, make sure you’ve considered the disadvantages and dangers of natural gas.

 

Disadvantages of Natural Gas

  • Switching to natural gas can cost up to $10,000 or more, and with today’s low heating oil prices you may never see a return on your investment.
  • Natural gas pipelines need to be shut down during pipeline repair work and emergency situations or extreme weather events, which can leave homeowners without heat for hours or even days.
  • Natural gas is explosive. If a leak develops in or near a home, a deadly explosion could result.
  • Natural gas equipment can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) with no warning signs.
  • The Markey Report to Congress reveals that consumers paid $20 billion for gas that they never received, because of pipeline leaks and other lost gas. Gas companies continue to make money from leaking pipes because the customers pay for the gas even though it never reached the home.
  • Recent independent studies from Duke and Boston Universities, and from the Environmental Defense Fund using Google Street View cars, have identified thousands of natural gas leaks, many issuing explosive levels of methane.
  • Massachusetts has taken steps to set standards for rating the severity of natural gas leaks and establish a timetable for making repairs.

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Natural Gas Leaks

  • A massive natural gas leak in the Aliso Canyon in California, at Porter Ranch, pumped methane into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate from October 2015 to February 2016.
  • By the time the leak was plugged on February 11, it had already released 96,000 metric tons of methane - the equivalent of 900 million gallons of gasoline burned.
  • Thousands of Porter Ranch residents were driven from their homes and schools were closed, due to complaints of headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, and other health concerns.  
  • Studies by the Environmental Defense Fund found leakage and other problems at every point of the natural gas supply chain across the country, adding up to 7.3 million metric tons of methane emissions a year. Damage to the environment over a 20-year period from these leaks is equivalent to 160 coal-fired power plants.
  • Thousands of natural gas leaks from distribution points below Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island have been located, with data collected by specially equipped Google Street View Cars. These leaks threaten public safety and the environment.
  • Scientists from Duke University and Boston University have discovered more than 5,800 leaks from aging pipelines in Washington, D.C., some with methane levels 10 times higher than the concentration needed to cause an explosion.
  • Massachusetts has more than 21,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, some estimated to be more than 150 years old. A recent study concluded that more than one-third of the gas delivery infrastructure is prone to leaks.
  • Methane leaks have been reported to negate the reported climate-change benefits of using natural gas instead of diesel fuels and heating oils.

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Don't go into debt on a pipe dream! 

  • Switching to gas can cost up to $10,000 or more, which may include:
    • New boiler or furnace
    • New water heater
    • Gas line installation
    • Permits and taxes
    • Chimney liner
    • Oil tank abandonment or removal
    • Plumbing and electrical
    • Landscaping
  • Today’s historically low heating oil prices are now comparable to or lower than heat-equivalent natural gas rates, which means a conversion may actually increase your heating costs.
  • If you take a loan, you're going into debt without a guaranteed return on investment.
  • Gas utilities can add a "Weather Normalization Fee" to maintain their profits even when you use less energy.
  • The utilities add a lot of confusing charges to their bills, including peak delivery rates, customer charges, commodity charges, conservation adjustments, sales service charges, transportation service charges, and more.
  • Converting your heating system takes a lot of time, effort and money. You'll need to:
    • Research available equipment
    • Find a company to install the heating equipment
    • Remove the existing heating system
    • Have the oil or propane tank removed or properly abandoned
    • Re-landscape your property in some cases, after the gas lines are laid
    • Arrange for regular maintenance or emergency repair services, as the utilities do not usually repair equipment. You'll have to find someone else if you have a problem.
  • Once your home is connected to a pipeline, you won't be able to switch to another natural gas distribution company.

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