Student Perspective: Gas Leak Repair vs. Renewable Energy – An Important Decision Looms for Newton

Gas leak repair vs. renewable energy: An important decision looms for Newton Who hasn’t been told to call the gas company if they smell gas in their home? Explosions can be catastrophic to personal safety and property, but there is another reason to be concerned about the growing number of leaks – almost 500 – currently catalogued by the City of Newton. Leaked gas reaches the air in the form of methane, an extremely damaging greenhouse gas more detrimental than carbon dioxide. Until recently, the health of the air, trees and the planet were not a consideration of the utility companies and city government charged with the mission of keeping us safe. The leaks that cause such harm mean not only that rate payers aren’t getting all the gas we are paying for, but also that there are major releases of methane into the atmosphere, which is a growing problem for the planet.

There will always be the argument over who should pay, how to coordinate the repair of sidewalks with gas leak repairs, and how to decide which leaks are more urgent than others. These however are all short-term solutions for our energy needs as a society. The bigger question is how to end dependence on fossil fuels. Does it make sense to replace our old, corroded gas pipes with PVC ones and continue our dependence on gas for decades to come, or should we invest now in infrastructure that will ensure sustainable solutions to meet our energy needs?

Major utility companies have made it seem like there is one option -taxpayer funded gas line replacement, but in reality there are many cleaner alternatives for heating our homes. For example, air source heat pumps, renewable wood pellets – both more cost effective than fossil fuels. Geothermal energy is a viable option, and of course as the cost goes down with wind and solar, retrofitting homes for electricity makes most sense. For new construction, gas and oil simply shouldn’t be an option.

Unless the government and other organizations convince average people to convert to clean energy, the transition will remain inefficient and too slow. Passing legislation to hold utilities accountable for the cost of leaked gas, incentivizing transition, and educating the public on why this is so important can lead to solutions. If we take these crucial actions now, we may be choosing to save the future of our planet. 

By Seika Ghavidel, GN Summer Intern

GN Summer Interns Lucy Lu and Seika Ghavidel working with Cory Alperstein

If you have a student grades 6-12 interested in joining Students for a Greener World please contact Margaret Ford at [email protected].