In my new, densely populated neighborhood of Arlington, MA, I find so-called “natural” gas infrastructure everywhere I turn. A couple of streets over is a compressor station that regularly emits chemicals into the air. And Mothers Out Front Arlington has helpfully alerted neighbors to gas leaks all over town with their “Fix the Leaks” signs.
One of the gas leak signs is right across the street from National Grid’s odorant facility. The gas smell is strong, coming not from the odor station but from the leak under the street. At one place in town it is easy to smell gas even with the car windows closed.
Why should we care? Natural gas releases methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in its heat-trapping qualities, through leaky gas pipelines crisscrossing our towns, states, and country. Mothers Out Front and our allied organizations have mobilized to pressure gas utilities to fix big gas leaks as part of our all-out efforts to save the climate for our children and grandchildren.
The good news is that gas leaks campaigns are spurring publicity-conscious gas utilities to fix leaks more actively. The bad news is that fixing leaks isn’t happening fast enough, and anyone driving around can, in certain spots, still smell waste gas. We know that, in addition to accelerating global warming, waste methane kills trees and increases pollution that exacerbates children’s asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
To add insult to injury, consumers are obliged to pay for this waste gas and listen to proposals to build costly and risky new pipelines. Far better alternatives exist, including fixing gas leaks to retain escaping gas and constructing alternative energy solutions.
The closed atmospheric system that shields our earth from space is rapidly approaching a point at which the heat retained from the human production of greenhouse gases will trigger unmanageable climate change. We have already had a glimpse of the future. Mothers and fathers are forced to find ways to care for their children in daunting situations, including:
- Out-of-control wildfires and mudslides that threaten homes
- Hurricanes causing record-breaking rainfall driving families from their homes
- Drought and water scarcity in the Southwest threatening agriculture and jobs
- The Zika virus and other devastating insect-borne illnesses spreading northward with warming habitats
- “Hot” spots in the Middle East and elsewhere where drought destroys livelihoods, sparks conflicts, and forces “climate migration”
- Sea level rise all over the world forcing uncertain relocations
Too often the impacts of these and other climate-driven problems hit the poor the hardest, although no one is exempt. We at Mothers Out Front know it is past time to hold the line against out-of-date, heat-trapping gas technologies. We know that it is high time – and just in time – to convert to renewable energy and other high-efficiency energy solutions for all our energy needs.
Yes, there are harmful methane gas leaks in my town, but our emerging energy future is here too. Solar panels and wind turbines can be seen from my windows. Electric cars like Teslas and plug-in Priuses are recharging in the garage. Heat pumps outside nearby homes provide electric heating/cooling derived in part or in whole from solar and wind. The newer building I live in is highly insulated.
These and other solutions are viable now and hold great promise for replacing fossil fuels and their harmful emissions. Our atmosphere can still sustain a livable future for all children if we act in time.
We can do this. Together. Now. Join us!
- by Mother Out Front Jean Cummings