Saturday, June 11, 2011

The global rise of natural gas

There is a fascinating report just out from the International Energy Agency [IEA]. Since the 2010 report, the world has changed - gas has come into the picture big time.

When replacing other fossil fuels, natural gas can lead to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and local pollutants. It can help diversify energy supply, and so improve energy security. It can provide flexibility and back-up capacity as more variable capacity comes on line in power generation.

I could hardly have put it better myself. Natural gas is a beautiful fuel. For all the above reasons, we should be actively promoting fracking in the Karoo. If we could find significant gas there, it would revolutionize our energy scene.

Of course, some are worried about the environmental impacts. The IEA addresses this:
Use of hydraulic fracturing in unconventional gas production has raised some serious environmental concerns and tested existing regulatory regimes. Based on the available data, we estimate that shale gas produced to proper standards of environmental responsibility has slightly higher "well-to-burner" emissions than conventional gas, with the combustion of gas being the dominant source of emissions. Best practice in production, effectively monitored and regulated, can mitigate other potential environmental risks, such as excessive water use, conservation and disposal.

For those concerned that unconventional gas such as shale gas is too new or untested, it is worth noting the report that over 60% of the huge US gas market is now unconventional.

The report asks if the gap between our climate actions and our climate goals are "becoming insurmountable?" That begs the question as to whether our climate goals are realistic. They are not. They are predicated on increasing levels of climate disaster due to climate change. But the world has been warming for the past 150 years, and evidence for increases in climate catastrophes is hard to find. If the hypothesis is weak, the goals are likely to be wrong, and it is increasingly clear the goals are in the wrong place altogether. There is no rationale for a carbon tax.

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