by Rosemary Penwarden
“Natural gas will be an important transition fuel as the world tackles climate change.” – PEPANZ (Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand).
Various versions of this industry-woven spin abound, from New Zealand Oil and Gas to Fonterra, from cheerleaders like our taxpayer funded NZ Petroleum and Minerals to even some government ministers. When you hear this rubbish from industry or befuddled friends and family, call it out.
It’s tennis season. Here are five easy ways to slam this silly idea straight out of court.
Number One – The Methane Problem: Unburned gas is mostly methane which, over a 20 year period, is around 86 times more potent in the atmosphere than CO2. And methane leaks, from wells and from pipelines, and it’s much worse than anyone used to think. Scientists now argue this leakage alone is enough to cancel out any climate benefits gas might have had over coal.
Number Two – Clean Burning?: Yeah, Nah! Once burned, gas produces CO2 – around 75% of the emissions of crude oil, around 60% of the emissions of coal. So what…it destroys the climate in four or five years instead of three? That’s not even accounting for the methane argument.
Number Three – Bad Timing: The next twenty years are the most important if we are to stabilise the climate. We don’t know if we have reached the ‘tipping point’ towards unstoppable climate disruption, but each year, each day, each hour, beginning now, is crucial in reducing emissions. We have to de-carbonise by mid century. We can’t afford exploration and development of any new fossil fuels – gas included, perhaps most crucially gas because of the potent greenhouse effect of methane.
Number Four – Economic Risk: Remind your friends/family/fossil fuel fans of the Carbon Bubble. We have a carbon budget, fast running out, of what we can get away with burning and dumping into the atmosphere if we are to stay below two degrees of global warming. We can’t even burn most of what’s already discovered and on the books of the fossil fuel industry worldwide, so those unburnable ‘assets’ are junk (and we have a Green Minister for Climate Change).
Number Five – International Pressure: The Paris Agreement commitments will come into effect in 2020. The days of dodgy offshore carbon credits and creative accounting are over. There will soon be nowhere for polluting industries to hide (and we have a Green Minister for Climate Change).
‘Natural’ Gas is NEITHER green, a transition fuel, nor a bridge to anywhere sensible. We go there, and we quit any pretence at a renewable future.