Nick Cater’s article‘Turn off the bleating hot-air-mob – time to turn up the gas’ (25 Sep) makes the proposition; ‘Whichever way you look at it, natural gas is preferable to coal.’
Fossil gas is mainly methane and, over 20 years, it traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Its potency as a greenhouse gas can be measured by the Global Warming Potential (GWP) scale. Carbon dioxide has a GWP of 1 over 100 years. In 2013, methane’s GWP was calculated at 28-36. It’s now thought to be even higher.
Methane is released from fossil gas before it’s even used – through fugitive emissions both at the time of extraction and distribution – in leaks and venting. An international study also found gas leaking across Sydney and Melbourne.
It’s well established that we’ve been vastly underestimating the amount of greenhouse pollution released by fossil gas.
Gas is not clean or green and it’s transported in massive pipes and tankers – not ‘invisibly’. Unconventional gas development creates air pollution linked to respiratory problems and cancer. Fracking has led to toxic contamination of groundwater and has even been linked to mild earthquakes.
To be fair, gas does produce 50-60 times less carbon dioxide than coal when burned in a new, efficient gas power plant.
But the simple fact remains; we cannot keep extracting and burning any fossil fuels and maintain a safe climate.
(Published in the Australian on 4 Nov 2020)