It’s got to be gas

Public Enemy Number One in energy terms has got to be burning coal to generate electricity. Although the use of some coal for domestic heating to supplement varying supplies of biomass in home stoves is going to continue to be very useful, using coal for power production is wasteful, toxic and high carbon.

Public Enemy Number Two in energy terms is nuclear power – a weight round our collective neck. Costly to build, costly to underwrite, costly to decommission: although its proponents claim it as a low carbon solution, even they admit the management of nuclear power can be polluting, risky and wasteful.

Public Energy Number Three in energy terms has to be the incredible amount of water required to keep the first two enemies in operation. Climate change is already altering the patterns of rainfall, both in geographical areas and in seasons. Any energy solutions that don’t require water supplies will be preferable.

Many environmental researchers oppose a growing dependence on Natural Gas for power generation in industrialised countries – they claim it will lock in carbon emissions production without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Carbon Capture and Storage is way off in the never-never land at present, so it should not be factored in to analyses of carbon management. Ignoring CCS, it can be seen that substituting in Natural Gas power generation where coal has been the principal fuel is in fact a very good way to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the near term.

Natural Gas is not forever, not even with environmentally-ensured unconventional production, such as shale gas. Yet the Natural Gas infrastructure is highly important for developed and some parts of developing countries too. If we can re-imagine the future of gas, making gas fuels renewable, the already existing distribution of gas and appliances and equipment that use it, become a valuable asset.

The climate change crisis is an energy crisis. My position is that we need three vital things to solve this energy crisis : rationalised energy, renewable electricity and Renewable Gas. My key projection is that a 100% renewable energy world is possible, and in fact, inevitable, and to get from here to there we need to use gas fuels, but they need to become progressively renewable in order to meet the climate change crisis.

Natural Gas can not only be a “bridge fuel”. Supporting its use now, on the understanding that it will be replaced by Renewable Gas in the medium term, will enable links to be made between society and the energy industry, and break down the barricades between those who are against high carbon energy and those who sell high carbon energy.

2 thoughts on “It’s got to be gas”

  1. Hi Jo

    I love your blog, and find myself vigorously nodding with most of your posts.. but.. (you sensed it) “it most certainly cannot be gas”.

    Natural gas is methane, its production, transport and use is very leaky (especially shale gas) and in the short term (20 year horizon) it has a 21 times higher global warming potential than CO2.

    Factor in this, and the various indirect forcings from methane, plus the slight cooling component of dirty coal (sulphates emissions => reflective particulates) and natural gas is as bad or worse than coal for its contribution to global warming.

    Check out these papers by Howarth et al:

    http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/Howarth%20et%20al.%20–%20National%20Climate%20Assessment.pdf

    http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/Howarth%20et%20al%20%202011.pdf

    So increasing reliance on gas could be dangerous from global warming perspective. My new title would be:

    “Sad to say, renewables all the way.. without delay”

    🙂

    Martin

  2. Jo,

    Public Enemy Number One is an Energy Policy that does not deliver affordable and reliable energy supplies to the public.

    Cold weather can cause death. People will die during cold winters if they are unable to afford a reliable supply of energy.

    Those people advocating the change to an energy policy which only delivered expensive and unreliable energy supplies will be held to account. The politicians will run a mile to distance themselves from such a failed policy. No politician is going to be so stupid to say that people are dying from the cold because we have to fight a Global Warming crisis. Well I suppose I can think of one or two who might …

    Kind Regards

    Brian

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