The road to climate hell is paved with good intentions that use bad ideas, and we are nearly there now. Fossil fuel companies tell us that burning methane gas is step towards climate mitigation, also known as a bridge, or label it a transition fuel. There is no climate science research that supports such an assertion. It remains such an easy lie. Australian politicians love oversimplified lies. These are politically useful myths and misleading signs on the road to hell.
Even energy minister Angus Taylor can smugly say his lines. "Australian exports of gas help our neighbours reduce their carbon emissions". But how much help is that? More Australian water and land is to be sacrificed to toxic fracking gas fields so that its overseas neighbours (customers) will be able burn more gas to reduce their carbon emissions for us? It doesn't even make sense. What a big fat smug lies we get to tell ourselves. As if a country ranked as a fossil fuel addict can talk about its good climate intentions.
Abundant gas could be great for any number of things, but it is not going to solve the climate change problem - Haewon McJeon, for Scientific American [Ref-5]
Tricky assumptions and caveats to get Australia's sicko gassy climate joke.
The gas fuel industry does not talk about a time or production limits of their gassy growth bonanza. Without a serious global production limit for burning gas, a cap on reserves that can be burned, such as outlined by the Carbon Tracker, there is no actual intention to transition off gas. Our politicians and gas proponents have no right talk up gas expansion as climate mitigation, yet never mention a stopping plan for the hot climate ever-afters. Dirty Rotten Lies.
Exposing these as self-serving lies requires some careful science models and measures, which explore the behaviours of the real world systems in which we live. It is unfortunate that science gets thrown into the memory hole whenever politics is confronted with real climate and energy policy.
Actual science reports hint that we are all close to being the walking dead. Marketing gas as a "transition fuel" is the same as being climate brain dead, regardless of denial level, a description that fits the Australian government perfectly.
A Nature published study in 2014 used several integrated energy - economy - climate assessment models have agreed that "additional supply of natural gas in the energy market does not discernibly reduce emissions" [Ref-1]
In fact no climate energy economy studies strongly confirm the gas bridge idea, and those few that gave it cautious encouragement put restricted time limits of transition period. [Ref-2]
For emissions , burning gas is less carbon intensive. Which means it can be used for a bounded number of years longer than coal before carbon budgets will be exceeded. Compared to coal, gas can be used maybe 1.5 to 2.4 times longer. [Ref-3]
Now our carbon budget is just about used up. Emissions from all fossil fuels need to drop to much less than 50% over this decade. Gas needs to be phased out soon after coal, and gas industry outputs should not growing in 10 years time. For the electricity grid, a 30 year payback for investment in a gas power plant is too late.
In real energy markets, if gas is very cheap and available, it substitutes for coal, but as it also replaces energy supply from nuclear and renewables, overall carbon emissions increase.
From the H.McJeon paper -- Lower natural gas prices accelerate economic activity, reduce the incentive to invest in energy-saving technologies, and lead to an aggregate expansion of the total energy system: a scale effect. All models reported greater total global primary energy consumption (6% on average) in the Abundant Gas scenario compared with the Conventional Gas scenario. All else being equal, increased energy use leads to increased CO2 emissions. ---
This is actually fits the dreams of gas capitalists - overproduction leading to growth of consumption of their product in competition to other emissions reducing technology. If the producers cut back their development of extraction fields, global gas prices will rise, and renewable energy sources will grow faster, and crowd out some of their future market. The cheap gas production overgrowth scenario allows this carbon competitor to oust coal. The end result is global climate handicap of another fossil fuel incumbent.
Will renewable energy technology continue to get cheaper, and undercut the production costs for gas? Maybe. The ongoing fuel cost of gas for a stationary energy turbine plant isn't the only consideration for gas fired electricity. There are also overheads of the plant machinery, maintenance, labour and finance. Many turbines require water cooling. There are mechanical and temperature constraints on the plant startup and shutdown periods, and shutdowns for maintenance.
Admit it, up there goes our methane
Fossil fuel industries are known to underestimate and under-report their methane emissions. Such denial means that money politics does not want to do anything about it.
A baseline science study to measure pre-industrial natural emissions used big fat drilled ice cores, and measured pre-industrial atmosphere methane levels. This produced an updated estimate of how much of our our rising methane levels is from anthropogenic sources, from fossil fuels and biogenic sources.
Concluding paragraph [Ref-4] --- A study using both ground-based facility-scale measurements and verification from aircraft sampling found that US oil and natural-gas CH4 emissions (largely from the production and gathering industry segments) are ~60% higher than those reported by the US Environmental Protection Agency, one of the primary data sources used in bottom-up inventories. If we consider a scenario in which the global bottom-up emissions of fossil CH4 from the oil and natural-gas industries (79 Tg CH4 yr−1; ref. 2) are similarly underreported by 60%, this would amount to unreported emissions of ~47 Tg CH4 yr−1, which is in agreement with the fossil CH4 emission shortfall that we identify in the current generation of bottom-up inventories (44–63 Tg CH4 yr−1). Our results imply that anthropogenic fossil CH4 emissions now account for about 30% of the global CH4 source and for nearly half of anthropogenic emissions, highlighting the critical role of emission reductions in mitigating climate change.
--- The above Nature paywall article was accessed via a read-only link in this National Geographic Article -https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/02/super-potent-methane-in-atmosphere-oil-gas-drilling-ice-cores/
The rest of anthopogenic methane includes a large part of our domestic animals for the meat and dairy industries. A massive uptake of converting the world to Vegan diets is likely to be able to improve this, reduce our energy usage, and also take some of the pressures off our arable land limits. It is energy inefficient to have so much of our diet as meat and dairy products.
Reality is a global snuff out by 2050?
The science reality horror film End Game 2050, suggests that we are unlikely to be able to escape from the control of our animal survival instincts. We are trapped in our human biological hangups and political limitations, while our biosphere continues to be consumed by our societies. The oncoming hot-house earth mass extinction looks more certain. With oceans under heat and acidity threats, phyto-plankton numbers are falling, ocean biology is going to jellyfish, and nearly half of global oxygen regeneration is going to be lost. Past global mass extinction events were associated with drops in atmosphere oxygen as well as rises in CO2. Our denial of death instinct make it terrifying to contemplate its full meaning. I shall try to go full Vegan.
The generic response of most politicians to any critical inquiry is no different to -- "All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds" - Dr Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide.
The great lies come from the benefactors of industrial civilisation perching at the tops of the wealth trees. We keep upping our global production and consumption in order to keep servicing our enormous debt piles, which can only add to them. The natural gas transition period is another of our bilious fantasy compromises, so our impossible goals of global wealth growth can still be chased for just a little while longer before the global snuff out. The last of natures resources are still marked down as free gifts to the global economy to enable this.
[Ref-1] Nature:Research Letter: Limited impact on decadal-scale climate change from increased use of natural gas - H.McJeon + others -
Free access - https://www.eenews.net/assets/2014/10/15/document_ew_01.pdf
Nature pay link - https://www.nature.com/articles/nature13837
[Ref-2] Desmog Blog article about this in 2014 -- https://www.desmogblog.com/2014/10/20/natural-gas-bridge-fuel-excellent-political-solution-fails-climate-solution
[Ref-3] 2015 - Bounding the climate viability of natural gas as a bridge fuel to displace coal - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0301421515300239 -
[Ref-4] 2020 - Preindustrial 14CH4 indicates greater anthropogenic fossil CH4 emissions - Feb 2020 - B. Hmiel + , Nature -
[Ref-5] 2014 Scientific American Natural Gas Offers Little Benefit in Fight against Global Warming