Many states and utilities have committed to providing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-free electricity in the next 20 to 25 years. As the electricity supply become “cleaner”, shifting fuel sources to electricity will reduce greenhouse gas emissions with no change in lifestyle and few changes in our habits. In many cases it will reduce costs. Electric vehicles (EVs) for example have a lower cost of ownership, in large part due to the fact that they are almost maintenance free as they have fewer moving parts and no combustion or need for oil. There have been recent advances in air-to-air heat pumps which both heat and cool buildings like an air conditioner that works in both directions, moving heat either into or out of the building depending on the season. This type of equipment used to lose efficiency in temperatures below zero Fahrenheit but newer models keep their efficiencies to about -13 F.
The strategy of moving to “all electric” homes, cars, and other things that use energy is a good strategy as electricity sources become cleaner but some things aren’t ready for electric conversion yet. Large trucks, such as garbage trucks and others, aren’t ready for electric motors. Alternatives are efficient compressed natural gas (CNG) engines. Newer models have near-zero emissions. The impacts of using GNG however come from the extraction and leaks in the pipelines needed to get CNG to the pumps. Advances in extraction have mixed results but in general are improving but finding and eliminating leaks along very long pipelines is difficult since natural gas is invisible and odorless. New satellites are being employed that are designed to take images that can identify larger leaks to focus pipeline repairs where needed. These efforts to reduce the impacts getting natural gas to the pumps is critical since natural gas, also called methane, is itself a greenhouse gas and its warming potential is 25 times higher than carbon dioxide. To understand greenhouse gases and their relative warming potentials, check out the EPAs website.