Natural gas can displace coal immediately and slow the growth of our swelling greenhouse problem, but gas alone cannot eliminate the long-term threat of global climate change. Renewable energy must play an increasing role in that process and, ultimately, the dominant role.
A renewable energy industry capable of serving billions of people will not spring to life overnight. It will require an extended period of sustained and rapid growth. As a competitor, gas poses a formidable threat to that growth in the United States and some other regions. At the same time, however, natural gas can provide a cheap and reasonably clean bridge to a renewable energy future.
The challenge is to use gas not just as a device to delay hard political and economic decisions but as a way to prepare for the next generation of energy technologies. While it is well beyond the scope of this paper to articulate a comprehensive clean energy strategy, we use this final section to outline the common ground between renewable energy and natural gas on which such a strategy might be built.