Gas and climate change

As well as posting here, I have a couple of articles in the Conversation about the end of the coal era (I’ll give links in a subsequent post, if I get time). In all cases, I’m getting lots of people saying that the reduction in coal use in is entirely/overwhelmingly due to low gas prices caused by the rise of shale gas. So, I thought it was time for a post on the subject. I want to make three points

(1) This claim is presented in global terms, but it’s really specific to the US. There is no global market for gas, and the expansion of fracking is not global (it’s big in the US and in Queensland, but not many other places).

(2) The claim is out of date as applied to the US. New electricity generation capacity there is now dominated by renewables (still true even after capacity factors are taken into account, I think)

(3) The continuing low price of gas (like that for coal and oil) is being drive, in large measure, by competition from renewables

I also want to talk about different views on the role of gas in the decarbonization process, but I’ll leave that for another time.

60 thoughts on “Gas and climate change

  1. Thanks for that, Ronald, I value your opinion. Where we are, people are paid to clean up all too infrequently. I am personally going to begin campaigning for deposits on a broad range of containers including the supermarket bags. I would like to see council recyclers profiting from the waste recycling process. In the best arrangement those containers that hit the waste depots could pay for part of that operation and the street clean up people too. The real problem is not the visible rubbish, it is the rubbish that disappears out of sight into storm water drains, and then to the wider environment.

    In Blaxland on the way to my factory there is a “special” woman who I see sometimes in the morning picking up the rubbish in her area. I helped her off a railway fence one morning early where she had got stuck and developed an instant attachment to her for the thing that she does to feel that she is contributing. I bought a pick up stick for her to use. Later someone else bought her one, and another time when I stopped to thank her she showed me (she cannot talk properly) that the grippers cannot pick up cigarette butts properly. There is a design challenge which I have not resolved.

    Disbursed rubbish is an externality which should be paid for at the time of purchase, resolve it properly and you get the money back else pass the value to some one else who will. In NSW the state government is appeasing its failure with an add campaign that seeks to shame litterers. In the world of prolific paint taggers it doesn’t work.

  2. Under reported, but we are to get our first lng bunkering vessel, on offshore rig tender for the nw shelf. Dampier will be our first lng bunkering port. We are way behind. Lng bunkering and automation will drive shipping productivity, not cabotage or cheap foreign crews. Both unions and business are hanging on to the old, Australian business has refused to invest in the new, and govt hasn’t built supporting infrastructure.

  3. “Cabotage is the transport of goods or passengers between two places in the same country by a transport operator from another country. It originally applied to shipping along coastal routes, port to port, but now applies to aviation, railways, and road transport as well.” – Wikipedia.

    That’s a new word to me.

    Here’s a good paper “LNG Bunkering: Technical and Operational Advisory”.

    Click to access LNG_Bunkering%20Advisory.pdf

    I saw another paper where the IEA said there’s enough LNG for 200 years use globally. Isn’t the whole point the fact that we can’t burn all the fossil fuels? Why mention reserves we simply cannot afford to burn? Burn them all and we burn the planet. So, when do we stop? As I said above or in another thread (I forget which), we need to reduce fossil fuel use by 4% to 5% each year from now and into the future to be even a half-assed chance of saving the benign holocene climate. Anyone reckon we will do it? Of course, a comparable final result is possible if we say start at say 1% a year drop and drop that use by a greater percentage each year. There are various paths.

    Okay so coal use is slowly becoming unattractive. That on its own is not enough to impress me. We have to drop oil and natural gas use too. For example, one would have to hope there are no internal combustion engine automobiles on the roads by 2030. Also, by 2030 at least 90% of dwellings in Australia should have solar panels on the roof. These are clear milestones we should set and reach . The next 15 years including this onewill be definitive . We will know by 2030 if we are doomed or if we have a chance.

  4. @Ikonoclast

    Far too much interstate trade is done by road. Lng bunkering and automation should return the cost advantage to shipping. Retrofitting and conversion of the commercial fishing fleet will follow. Gov needs to build the infrastructure now.

  5. @peach la mar.

    “Far too much interstate trade is done by road.”

    I agree. The question is how rail and shipping would compare. There are probably roles for both as we retire what I call the “mammoth behemoths”; the semis, B-doubles and road-trains.

  6. A big problem with the use of gas is in the mining and transport of it: fugitive emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas (approx 23 times more potent than CO2 over a 20 year period), bubble up from the ground at the mining site, and further away, anywhere that fissures have opened up—Coal Seam Gas fracking is a classic example.

    Witness the Condamine river set alight in this video by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham (Qld). This is a kilometre away from the fracking site itself.

    The mining company claims it has no impact on human health, and isn’t an environmental problem. If CO2 is considered an environmental problem because it is a GHG, then as a far more potent GHG, the methane must be considered as an environmental problem. This company is taking a risky legal position when it claims no risk (posed by the fugitive emissions of methane).

  7. @BilB
    The container deposit scheme is for beverage containers – it won’t include plastic supermarket bags. Container deposit schemes aren’t a bad idea, but their impact on pollution and waste reduction is pretty trivial. What is needed are legislated extended producer responsibility schemes which cover a much bigger proportion of the total number of manufactured goods. The NSW government does deserve some credit for putting a public interest concern ahead of industry lobbying though. That is a rare thing – particularly for the Liberal party.

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