Gas not a viable bridge fuel to renewables, report finds

Published by Kayle Crosson on

May 31st, 2019

A new report from an international energy think tank has stressed that gas is not a viable bridge fuel between fossil fuels and renewables, nor is it clean, inexpensive, or necessary.

The new report by Oil Change International instead finds that gas is instead a “bridge to climate disaster”.

The group states that the idea of gas as a bridge fuel is based on the false assertion that it is the only affordable fuel that can replace coal on a large scale in the short to medium term.

The report states that wind and solar are in fact the cheapest form of bulk energy supply in most major markets today and that the development of untapped gas reserves is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement.

Even if methane leakage from gas extraction is kept to a minimum, the report states, relying on gas reserves will not cut emissions “by nearly enough” to halt global temperature rise.

Methane – highly potent when released into the atmosphere – is prone to leakage throughout the gas supply chain. It is estimated that the warming effect of methane is 84 to 87 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is calling for an urgent move away from fossil fuels, yet global fossil fuel emissions grew 2.7 per cent in 2018, the largest increase in seven years.

Business-as-usual projections, the Oil Change International report goes on to find, suggest gas production could grow a further 20 to 40 per cent by the 2040s.

“The limits of our climate system mean that we need to reduce all fossil fuel production and use, and gas is no exception,” the report states.

The findings make for interesting reading in Ireland as just this week the Government granted consent for new exploratory well in the Porcupine Basin.

The Government also issued a decision that a “money message” is now required for the Climate Emergency Measures Bill that would halt the issuing of new licences if passed into law.

Oisín Coghlan (l) of the Pillar & Ciara Barry of Not Here, Not Anywhere Photo: Niall Sargent

Indulging in a ‘death race’

In a tweet yesterday, Oisin Coghlan of Friends of the Earth Ireland implored the Taoiseach and the Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton to read the report and “realize you are being badly briefed on gas”.

Speaking to The Green News today, Mr Coghlan said that the report is “timely” as it addresses many of the underlying “assumptions and myths that the likes of our civil servants pedal and political leaders swallow”.

“I genuinely think if Minister Bruton spent a couple of hours with the authors of this report and other genuine scientific experts, as opposed to civil servants and fossil fuel lobbyists, he would appreciate the evidence the report shows – that gas is dirty, expensive, and unnecessary,” he added.

“It’s a death race that we’re indulging in,” Mr Coghlan said of the Government’s course of action, “and it makes no sense whatsoever.”

Thousands of people responded to a call this week from Stop Climate Chaos to email Mr Bruton and the Taoiseach expressing their support for the Climate Emergency Measures Bill.

In a template reply message from Mr Bruton seen by The Green News, he states his view that the prevention of domestic gas sources will do absolutely nothing to bring down emissions.

Mr Bruton also stresses in the letter that fossil fuels will still be needed in the transition to renewables “when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine”.

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.