Gas has been used for cooking for a long time. It’s used to heat our homes and businesses and is increasingly used to generate electricity.
For example, natural gas was a large part of the US’s natural gas supply. 34% of the total energy consumedIn 2020, it was the main source for electricity generation.
The truth is that gas is being promoted as a booming, three-lettered climate hero, as the world works to eliminate coal-fired energy.
But is it?
It is not, as the European Commission (EC) implied last week when it proposed classifying gas and nuclear energy as climate-friendly, a clean fuel.
Gas is true, it’s everywhere. Emissions reduced by 50% than coal when producing electricity, but it has also proven to be the Fastest growingSource of planet-heating CO2 emission over the past decade, a trend that’s expected to continue.
Yeah, oh. But that’s not all.
We are being told more often that gas is necessary to “transition to a cleaner energy future”. The theory goes that because it is still cleaner than its fossil friends, gas can help make up the energy shortfall caused by a looming coal power phase-out.
But the reality is that as a fossil fuel, natural gas causes climate change explaining why the European Green Party says it might take the EC to court over its push to classify some investments in gas as sustainable.
In short, gas is already being Described as the “new coal.”
It is possible?
Natural gas is a combustible hydrocarbon mostly made up of methane which is around 28 times more polluting than CO2 and is prone to leak from gas pipelines and infrastructure.
It’s a fossil fuel that is non-renewable and can be found deep under the ground in shale and rocks, and sometimes close to petroleum. It is used for energy and as a chemical feedstock to plastics and fertilizers. However, natural gas reserves could be depleted in the next 50 years because of our current insatiable appetite.
It is not long-term thinking to use gas as a “bridging” fuel for a clean energy future. One day, not too far down the line, it will run out. It is supposed to provide us with energy security.
Is gas really that safe?
It is difficult for gas to be sourced, so Europe still relies heavily upon Russia for the fossil fuel.
Natural gas is transported long distances and pumped into pipelines. This adds to the infrastructure and carbon footprint.
Geopolitics is another problem. Just look at the delays in getting the Nord Stream 2 Russia-Germany gas pipe connected amid the escalating threat of war in Ukraine. It’s ready but it won’t flow. Gas prices skyrocket as supply ebbs. Energy security, hey.
Germany is so dependent on gas for heating and fuel that it has been open to US supplies. Germany is currently planning to build large, expensive terminals to receive LNG shipments.
Problem is, these imports would include fracked gas, which is extracted from rock and shale using poisonous chemicals in an environmentally-hazardous process.
Fracking, as it’s known, also releases large amounts of methane. This makes it potentially dangerous. bigger climate enemyIt is more efficient than coal
Many European countries, including Germany have banned the practice at home, but fracked US LNG might one day replace Putin’s gas.
Can we not just leave gas in the ground if it is so bad?
The EU believes that we can reuse existing gas infrastructures for “low carbon” gases like hydrogen and biogas. That was at least the gist in a recent European Commission report. Proposal to decarbonize gas markets.
Although it might sound good in theory, it would involve burning a lot hydrocarbons in the near term. Also, clean gases like “green hydrogen” remain a pipedream due to the fact they can only be made using renewable energy that will be used to power the energy transformation.
That is why Critics say talk of the green gas transition is giving fossil fuel companies a pass to greenwash their climate-wrecking business.
“Natural gas does not serve as a bridge fuel. It is a fossil-fuel fuel.” One climate analystIt should be treated like coal and phased-out as soon as possible.
What is the alternative?
We have other options. Yet Australia is talking up a “gas-fired recovery” from the pandemic, and Europe is pushing hard to build its “gas bridge” to our bright and clean energy tomorrow.
Some people sayAll this gas boosterism will only lead to a “carbon locking-in”, which will delay the energy transition.
Because all the capital and infrastructure that will go into a gas-fired energy transition means the fossil fuel will continue to be extracted to make good the investment.
Meanwhile, that same cash could have gone directly into the renewables that would directly decarbonize the energy supply.
And it would be energy we can still cook with.
Edited by Tamsin W. Walker