NATURAL GAS WAS THE MOST RELIABLE RESOURCE FOR ENERGY AND HEAT PRODUCTION. UNTIL NOW.

NATURAL GAS WAS THE MOST RELIABLE RESOURCE FOR ENERGY AND HEAT PRODUCTION. UNTIL NOW.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel that, when in combustion, produces heat-trapping CO2. It also generates other global emissions when leaking during extraction and its distribution. In the Current Policies Scenario, global gas demand rises by 2% per year, resulting in almost 60% more demand in 2040 than today.

While China and India increase their demands – as developing economies – the United States are also currently moving towards a natural-gas power generation model. Shifting from coal – which was considered a great environmental hazard – natural gas will still generate substantial greenhouse gas emissions and will fail to address climate change problems or to remain in the Paris Agreement established parameters, that stipulates “no CO2 emissions by 2050.”

NATURAL GAS DEMANDS RISE

Natural gas has the largest growth in volume in the power sector, while gas faces less competition from renewables. With higher demand, unconventional gas resources are still wanted. Shale gas production is expected to triple, reports the World Energy Outlook 2018.

The report says “that increasingly takes place outside the United States, notably in China, Argentina and Canada. As the market resorts to more costly projects, the cumulative required investment in gas supply is 15% higher ($10 trillion) than in the New Policies Scenario, which explains the higher gas prices in this scenario.”

China’s gas demand is projected to triple to about 710 billion cubic meters by 2040, mainly due to a concerted coal-to-gas switch as part of the drive to “turn China’s skies blue again”. And the country’s gas consumption is rapidly becoming half that of the European Union today, while being the world’s largest gas-importing country, with net imports approaching the level of the European Union by 2040. Also, it is on track to surpass Japan as the largest liquefied natural gas importer worldwide.

WHEN SALVATION BRINGS UP EVEN MORE HAZARDS

A recent study published in the Science journal, shows that natural gas emissions are significantly rich in methane – which is more potent than CO2 – than it was previously known. As this gas stays in the atmosphere for shorter periods of time, Matt Watson (Environmental Defense Fund) says that “Methane is this industry’s Achilles heel as they look out toward the future. If this industry wants to be a valuable part of a decarbonizing future they have to tackle this problem.”

While the electric power sector is the largest contributor the United States greenhouse gas emissions – about one third of the country’s total emissions – the challenge is on. As if it continues to walk down this path, it will generate three times the recommended emissions by the National Research Council (NRC). And to stop effects on climate change, the U.S. would need to cut down 90 percent of its CO2 emissions by 2050, which will be a hard endeavor.

In order to meet the NRC’s recommendations for the power sector, the United States would need to heavily invest in energy efficient renewable alternatives. Wind and solar will be good choices, with little investment, but it seems the world’s addiction to CO2 is quite hard to overcome.

With gas pipelines endangering people and communities – as they tend to blow up – and the methane that wasn’t previously accounted for, the natural gas industry hazards are multiple. Moreover, fracking – the hydraulic fracturing that allows access to reserves trapped underground in shale rock – is contaminating water supplies, while being linked to infertility, miscarriage and low birth weight (according to this study).

Maybe what we could keep in mind is that everything we invest in pipelines, gas wells or some new way to make natural gas viable, is actually prolonging effects on climate change and not giving renewables the rightful attention they deserve today.

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