EWG: ‘remedy 40% worse than disease when switching to natural gas’
A new study by the Berlin-based Think-Tank Energy Watch Group (EWG) states frankly that methane leaks in the whole chain of production to the burning of natural gas makes it unsuited as bridging fuel for climate reasons. The remedy may be 40% worse than the disease when switching to natural gas from coal-fired power stations for electricity or from oil-fired heating.
The Energy Watch Group (EWG) is an international network of scientists and parliamentarians that was founded in 2006 by the former German Green Party parliamentarian Hans-Josef Fell who is the co-author of the new report titled ‘Natural Gas Makes No Contribution to Climate Protection.’
Giving short shrift
EWG gives short shrift to the general assumption that burning natural gas reduces CO2 emissions significantly compared to coal or oil burning and thus is a perfect bridging fuel to accomplish climate goals. Heating your home by natural gas instead of oil would account for 25% less CO2, for instance.
But this does not take enough into account the impact that methane leaks have in the whole production, transportation to consumption cycle, EWG says. It accuses the International Energy Agency (IEA) of “repeatedly playing down the climate impact of natural gas, thus laying the foundation for national governments to continue to subsidize fossil fuels heavily.”
In its latest ‘World Energy Outlook WEO 2018’ the IEA used ‘five problematic assumptions’, the NGO states, in determining the level of methane emissions and uses several outdated figures.
Natural gas consists on average for 80% or more of methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas that is 20 to 23% more harmful when than CO2 when you want to avoid climate change. Especially when it escapes into the open air during the production process or transport through pipelines or LNG ships.
The effect of methane leaks in the booming business of shale oil and gas winning is underestimated, states EWG. It bases its findings on several new studies showing a much faster rise of methane concentration in the atmosphere than previously projected.
The only way is 100% renewable
According to EWG, “natural gas-related methane emissions are already responsible for about 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. While in total, methane accounts for about 41% of all greenhouse gases.”
So, for the Energy Watch Group switching to natural gas for heating and electricity production as promoted by several governments to achieve climate agreement goals is counterproductive.
The only way to go is for 100% renewable sources like solar or wind energy and using existing pipelines and gas installations to convert it for the use of hydrogen. If the latter is generated using green electricity.
By putting natural gas to the sword as a solution, EWG could give ammunition to the defenders of sticking longer to nuclear energy as an alternative. A discussion that surfaces again in Belgium as the new government is to be formed.