Last updated on: 10/2/2020 | Author: ProCon.org

Should Natural Gas Be Used as a Transition Fuel to Achieve Net Zero Carbon?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Clyde Russell, Asia Commodities & Energy Columnist at Thomson Reuters, in a Sep, 20, 2018 article, “Column: Natural Gas Says It’s No Longer a Transition Fuel. It May Be Wrong – Russell,” available at reuters.com, stated

“The idea of natural gas as a transition fuel was largely cemented by the International Energy Agency in 2011, when it published a report on what it termed the “golden age of gas,” which would see demand for the fuel jump by 50 percent to become 25 percent of global energy consumption by 2035.

Natural gas was seen as a cleaner alternative to coal, a factor the industry was happy to seize upon as it allowed them to boost output while being seen as part of the solution to climate change, rather than part of the problem.

The rapid expansion of shale gas production in the United States was largely behind the demise of many coal-fired power stations, while in China coal used in industries and for residential heating is being replaced by natural gas as part of the government’s efforts to reduce air pollution.”

Sep. 20, 2018

PRO (yes)

Pro

Sam Winstel, writer for the American Petroleum Institute, in a July 31, 2020 article, “Common Sense Approach To Reliable, Low-Emissions Electricity,” available at api.org, stated:

“The nation’s electricity grid operators. They’re on the front lines of the twin effort to provide affordable energy to American homes and businesses, while lowering carbon dioxide emissions from power generation. For them, clean and reliable natural gas is the cornerstone for succeeding on both fronts, which is why natural gas is the nation’s No. 1 fuel for power generation.

At the same time, natural gas is essential for renewable energy expansion, as much of it is still intermittent…

The reliance on natural gas in power generation has been driven by the fuel’s market competitiveness and infrastructure stability, with rapid ramp-up capacity to meet demand spikes when renewable resources are unavailable…

There are questions about the feasibility of sweeping pledges for “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. electric power grid – not to mention most other industries. So it’s essential to focus on the realistic, broad-based approaches that are already advancing environmental progress.”

July 31, 2020

Pro

Frank J. Macciarola, JD, Senior Vice President of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs at American Petroleum Institute, in a June 30, 2020 article, “API Statement On Climate Proposal From House Select Committee,” available at api.org, stated:

“The risks of climate change are real, and the solutions must be equally real. Our industry is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions while providing access to affordable and reliable energy that helps enhance standards of living around the world. We are not waiting for the government to take action – we are meeting this challenge head on through cleaner fuels and innovation, all while delivering the energy that American families rely on every day. Now more than ever, we need bipartisan policy solutions to reduce the risks of climate change that do not force a false choice between protecting the environment and growing the U.S. economy. We can do both, but it will require working together and recognizing the critical role of the oil and natural gas industry in reducing emissions and powering the nation’s economic recovery.”

June 30, 2020

Pro

BP (British Petroleum), in a document accessed on Oct. 2, 2020, “Reimagining Energy,” available at bp.com, stated:

“Today, natural gas allows billions of people to enjoy access to lower carbon heat and power. And, as the world works towards net zero emissions, we think natural gas will play an important role in getting us all there…

  • Natural gas has far lower emissions than coal when burnt for power and is a much cleaner way of generating electricity. Switching from coal to gas has cut more than 500 million tonnes* of CO2 from the power sector this decade alone.
  • And, as electricity production increasingly switches to renewable sources, gas is a flexible partner to wind and solar, providing quick and reliable back-up power whatever the weather. This gas + renewables partnership has helped the UK to lower emissions to levels last seen in the 19th century…
  • Looking ahead, natural gas can be decarbonized. When it’s burned to generate power or heat for industry the carbon dioxide generated can be captured so that it doesn’t reach the air through using carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technologies. And, it can also be used to produce hydrogen, which produces water-vapour when burned. Through the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative and the Net Zero Teesside project, BP is working to accelerate the potential of CCUS to take the carbon out of hydrocarbons. And, as a member of the Hydrogen Council, BP is supporting hydrogen as a key element of the energy transition.”
Oct. 2, 2020

Pro

International Energy Agency, in a July 2019 report, “The Role of Gas in Today’s Energy Transitions,” available at iea.org, stated:

“The clearest case for switching from coal to gas comes when there is the possibility to use existing infrastructure to provide the same energy services but with lower emissions.

Given the time it takes to build up new renewables and to implement energy efficiency improvements, this also represents a potential quick win for emissions reductions. There is potential in today’s power sector to reduce up to 1.2 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by switching from coal to existing gas-fired plants, if relative prices and regulation support this potential. The vast majority of this potential lies in the United States and in Europe. Doing so would bring down global power sector emissions by 10% and total energy-related CO2 emissions by 4%.”

July 2019

Pro

Amir Safari, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Stavanger, et al, in a June 17, 2019 article, “Natural Gas: A Transition Fuel for Sustainable Energy System Transformation?,” available at onlinelibrary.wiley.com, stated:

“Global energy sources are, in the next two decades, to move from high‐carbon to low‐carbon energy sources to prepare the roadmap for a zero‐carbon future. Oil and gas will, however, continue to dominate the market. Ignoring this reality will lead to misleading policy action. Debate on renewable versus oil and gas dominance is likely due to fugitive emission risks from gas. The practical relevance of gas‐based power generation where renewable penetrates more quickly in many countries, however, needs careful discussion and deeper analysis. Keeping natural gas and oil in the demand and supply equation will avoid bias in picking multiple technological innovation and learning both in power generation process technologies and in end of pipe solutions, such as carbon capture and storage, while maintaining the current resource endowment and human capacity engaged. Four country studies show that there is a need for bringing low‐carbon fossil fuel into the energy transition discourse to address the economic, political, and societal needs of the countries. However, a much broader and open dialogue is required if this discourse is to remain focussed on the long‐term goal, rather than it being pushed aside.”

June 17, 2019

CON (no)

Con

Mae Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org, in an interview with Teo Grossman accessed on Oct. 2, 2020, “A Conversation about Climate Activism with May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org,” available at 350.org, stated:

“All of the work happening globally is aimed at ending the age of fossil fuels as fast as possible ensuring a just and fair transition to 100% renewable energy for all. The Fossil Free campaign outlines the three demands we believe need to happen simultaneously if we are to have a good chance at averting the worst impacts of the unfolding climate crisis. We have campaigns all over the world pushing for the following three demands:

  • 100% renewable energy for all. Activists in 14 cities across the Ukraine held “solutions fairs,” celebrating what a fossil free world could like in an effort to help spark more climate movement work in the region.
  • No new fossil fuel projects anywhere. The DeCOALinise Africa platform is linking the fight to stop coal with the long-term struggle to stop colonization and linking liberation and climate movements together
  • Not a penny more for dirty energy. Numerous cities continue to divest, not to mention the first country ever to do so: Ireland!”
Oct. 2, 2020

Con

Green America, in an article accessed on Oct. 2, 2020, “Natural Gas: Transition Fuel Myth,” available at greenamerica.org, stated:

  • “Economic resources are better spent on efficiency and renewable energy. The resources and technology exist to move towards 100% renewable energy. Extra investment in this technology only makes it better and cheaper.
  • Investing in a transition fuel is a dead end. The money spent on natural gas power facilities and infrastructure takes decades to recuperate. Companies would need to use these facilities for their full lifetimes, delaying the switch to renewables for far too long.
  • Investment in natural gas does not incentivize a move to renewable energy. Stakeholders will be actively opposed to laws and regulations that promote clean power at the expense of natural gas companies.
  • Energy companies want to export natural gas from the U.S. overseas and are currently building export facilities on the U.S. coasts. The exporting of natural gas will cause increased investment in pipeline infrastructure, increase natural gas fracking in the U.S., expose communities to the potential for catastrophic leaks or explosions, and slow the transition to renewable energy worldwide.”
Oct. 2, 2020

Con

Brian Kahn, Managing Editor of Earther, in a Feb. 20, 2020 article, “Please, For the Love of All Things Holy, Stop Pretending Natural Gas Is a ‘Transition Fuel’,” available at earther.gizmodo.com, stated:

“The notion that natural gas is a bridge to a renewable future was first put in writing in 1979 by environmentalist Barry Commoner in his book The Politics of Energy. He called it a “bridge between the present, unsatisfactory reality and the still abstract, hoped-for future.” This is more than 40 years ago. We should be near the end of the bridge, yet it feels like we’ve actually walked backward as emissions have continued to rise rapidly. In a 1997 interview with Scientific American, Commoner called for the phaseout of natural gas…

The world’s goal is to avert ecocide, and a few tweaks around the edges aren’t enough to do that. We need to strap on a jetpack to leap over the chasm in front of us, and that jetpack is damn well not going to run on gas.”

Feb. 20, 2020

Con

David Roberts, writer for Vox, in a May 30, 2019 article, “More Natural Gas Isn’t a ‘Middle Ground; — It’s a Climate Disaster,” available at vox.com, stated:

“You see, all those arguments for natural gas that seemed so compelling during the Obama years have fallen apart. It’s now clear that if the world is to meet the climate targets it promised in Paris, natural gas, like coal, must be deliberately and rapidly phased out. There’s no time for a bridge. And clean alternatives are ready…

[L]et’s quickly review the reasons natural gas has got to go…

1) Gas breaks the carbon budget…
2) Coal-to-gas switching doesn’t cut it…
3) Bulk renewables can displace both coal and gas…
4) Gas isn’t needed for grid reliability…
5) New natural gas infrastructure locks in carbon…

Natural gas will not go as quietly; its economic footprint is much larger. Oil and gas companies have considerably more political clout than coal companies. There’s a whole new set of battles and tricky political dilemmas ahead.

Nevertheless, supporting continued buildout of natural gas assets in the US is not “moderate” climate policy, nor a “middle ground.” It is an admission of failure, an acknowledgment that the US will not do its part to avert 2 degrees of warming and the horrors that will follow in its wake. No candidate should get away with claiming otherwise.”

May 30, 2019

Con

Energy Justice Network, in an article accessed on Oct. 2, 2020, “No Such Thing as ‘Transition’ Fuels,” available at energyjustice.net, stated:

“Why we don’t believe in “transition” fuels / technologies:

Natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, ethanol, hydrogen and other false solutions have been promoted as transition fuels or technologies. It is our assertion that there is no such thing.

A transition is something that gets us from A to C by going through B. When economic resources (public or private) are invested in infrastructure for natural gas, biomass incineration, biofuels or the like, this doesn’t bring us closer to the goal of meeting our energy needs with conservation, efficiency, wind, solar and ocean power. It actually makes it harder to get to our goal. This is because:

1. The economic resources can be better spent by investing directly in conservation, efficiency, wind and solar…
2. They are an investment dead-end…
3. They create a new constituency of investors opposed to the move to clean energy…

Economic resources shouldn’t be spent on investments in technologies that aren’t the best we can do. Natural gas, biofuels and the like aren’t genuine transition strategies. Building an ethanol or biodiesel plant doesn’t get us closer to wind and solar, to better mass transit, to electric vehicles… it just uses resources that could be used TODAY to go directly to these solutions.”

Oct. 2, 2020