This installation, titled Sanguinaria, takes a critical look at our reliance on fossil fuels and the mythology of gradual replacement that has surrounded the recent push for an increased use of natural gas over coal and oil. While natural gas emits 50 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when burned in new and efficient natural gas power plants, the drilling and extraction of natural gas, along with its transportation, leads to the leakage of methane, which is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 10 year period. Therefore, the real environment impact of natural gas most likely equals that of the “dirtier” fuels.
Nevertheless, fossil fuel companies and politicians continue to tout natural gas as a cleaner interim fuel that could sustain our industries until some far-off future when we develop clean technologies. The irony is that a comprehensive study by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has revealed that the U.S. could generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050 using already existing technology. The target of 80 percent renewable by 2050 is exactly the target that scientists report we must meet in order to prevent the 2 degree Celsius global temperature change that will devastate the natural world as we know it and lead us into irreversible climate change. The rhetoric surrounding natural gas has mislead Americans into believing that we must wait for some far-off technology to make the move to renewables and has distracted our leaders from the real work that must be done NOW to develop the infrastructure that will enable the revolution to green technologies.
Like the poisonous extracts of Sanguinaria (Bloodwood) that were peddled as miracle cures by early American medicine shows, natural gas is a snake oil that has our leaders and citizenry mistaking poison for medicine.