Gas the ‘dumbest partner’ for renewable energy

Published by Niall Sargent on

June 11th, 2019

Gas is not a viable bridge fuel toward a carbon-free energy system and is one of the “dumbest partners” in energy generation alongside renewables, a UK expert told an event in Dublin this morning.

Speaking at a briefing on the stalled progress of People Before Profit’s Bill to halt the issuing of fossil fuel licenses, Gregg Muttitt of the energy think tank Oil Change International said that the idea of using gas as a bridge fuel died decades ago when renewables were still expensive.

The Government has repeatedly said gas is a key transition fuel in the short to medium term, with the Department of Climate Action stating that fossil fuels will be required to meet electricity needs and provide a back-up supply “when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining”.

The Government recently granted consent to CNOOC Petroleum Europe – a subsidiary of the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company – for an exploratory oil and gas well in the Porcupine Basin.

Today, however, with rapidly declining renewable costs coupled with out of control emissions, Mr Muttitt said that moving from one fossil fuel to another “will not allow us to achieve the Paris Agreement goals”.

The Paris Agreement’s central goal is to keep the global average temperature rise to well below 2C degrees and as close as possible to 1.5C.

“Gas is not a transition or bridge fuel, it is an old dirty fuel from the 20th century and we need a real transition to renewables,” he said. “There is no way the world can achieve the Paris goals if we keep adding more oil, coal, and gas to the system.”

Brid Smith speaking at climate vigil for her Bill Photo: Kalye Crosson
Brid Smith speaking at outside the Dail Photo: Kalye Crosson

‘Legislative torture’ to progress Bill

The Climate Emergency Measures Bill raised by Deputy Brid Smith was slated to proceed to Committee Stage on 11 June. However, a letter sent yesterday to Ms Smith signed by the Minister for Natural Resources Sean Canney TD states that the Bill now requires a “money message”.

Mr Canney will appear before the Joint Committee on Climate Action this afternoon in relation to the decision to issue the money message.

Speaking this morning, Ms Smith said that the Government should let the Bill “go on its merry way through the democratic process” and allow Ireland to become the fifth county in the world to stop issuing new exploration licences.  Instead, she said, it has been “legislation torture” trying to get the Bill through to Committee Stage.

The Bill was previously held up for several months at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage as a grouping of Fine Gael and independent politicians voted against a report on the Bill proceeding to the Dail.

This is not the first instance of the Government blocking climate legislation according to the Green Party’s Catherine Martin, who said that the party’s own Waste Reduction Bill was blocked last year in a similar fashion.

Referencing the boost in votes for the Green Party in the recent local elections, Ms Martin said that the electorate has clearly “demanded real climate action” from the Government.

The best way to do this, she said, is to support moves to keep fossil fuels in the ground instead of “constantly creating obstacles to any meaningful legislation”.

“Despite all the talk and running out to stand with students during the climate strikes, the real story is [the Government] are putting all their efforts into blocking legislation for climate action,” Ms Martin added.

Set an example for the world

Also speaking at the event, Andrés Ingi Jónsson of the Left-Green Movement in Iceland outlined his Bill introduced to the Icelandic parliament to limit future fossil fuel exploration that was inspired by Ms Smith’s Bill.

His Bill would limit any application for oil and gas exploration licences unless the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are below 350 parts per million in the preceding 12 months.

Climate scientists argue that we need to keep this level below 350ppm to sustain life on earth as we know it. The latest data indicates that concentrations reached 410ppm in November 2018, with no sign of a reversal in sight according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Mr Ingi Jónsson said that the recent declaration of a climate emergency in Ireland is “inspiring” and that he hopes both nations can “set an example for the world” by passing legislation to show that “fossil fuel exploration is something that we did in the past.”

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London