Will the multi-billion dollar Australian gas industry help decarbonise the region and the world, as its proponents and industry claim?
The neat sounds that gas is less dirty than coal, or facts suggesting that exports of liquefied natural gas are crowding out exports of more polluting coal, are plentiful and easy to get out of hand, but they are almost always devoid of detail.
Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan was asked last week about the future of one megaproject already approved in his state – the $ 12 billion Woodside LNG development at Scarborough.
On climate change, McGowan said opposing gas was a “riddle” and that “if we don’t get gas, other countries will add more coal.”
He told reporters that burning coal produces “two or three times more emissions” than gas.
New Resource Secretary Madeleine King said in a statement published in The West Australian on Thursday that countries such as Japan, Korea and China “are demanding our gas for their path to clean zero” and LNG projects will help countries “reduce their dependence on other fossil fuels, which are higher carbon producers ’.
“The Australian gas industry is part of a decarbonising world – and it’s urgent,” she said.
There are two huge problems with this, and both should be good reasons for politicians and commentators to stick back to their LNG principles.
One of them is a series of questions that you need to answer before you can compare the climate impacts of gas and coal, not only in terms of emissions, but also the impact that LNG supply has on the use of renewable energy.
Another is that although claims that LNG is significantly less dirty than coal have been made for more than a decade, there is virtually no evidence to support this. However, there are many analyzes that show that LNG is only slightly less harmful to the climate than coal – some of which have been commissioned by the gas industry itself.
Dimitri Lafleur is a carbon analyst at Global Carbon Insights, a research group funded by the Australasian Center for Corporate Responsibility. He says statements like McGowan’s are always “incomplete.”
“Purely a unit of energy, gas combustion accounts for 60% of coal emissions. But then you have to look at the quality of the gas, at the quality of the coal, “he says, adding that you also have to consider what the gas is used for.
Calculations often ignore the impact of fugitive emissions – the loss of a strong methane greenhouse gas that can escape anywhere in the LNG supply chain – or emissions from the huge amount of energy used to liquefy the gas and subsequently gasify the product at the final stage. destination (Australia’s largest consumer of gas is in fact the country’s own LNG industry).
“You have to have it all in your calculations.” It is misleading to keep coming back to the idea that gas accounts for only 60% or 50% of coal emissions, ”says Lafleur.
Temperature Check asked McGowan’s office for his statement that other countries would return to coal if they did not sell them gas or that the gas would be less dirty.
The questions were not answered, but the statement said: “The Prime Minister reiterates his support for gas as a transitional fuel, with strong demand from trading partners looking for lower-emission energy sources.
Indeed, in 2019, Woodside commissioned CSIRO to “test the assumption through model scenarios that an increase in LNG in Asia will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and support the introduction of renewable electricity generation.”
what was the conclusion Not surprisingly, the answer was as nuanced as it should be, but contrasted with the simplistic statements that are often made about LNG.
“Gas can help [greenhouse gas] “Emission mitigation at a time when carbon prices or equivalent signals are strong enough to force high shares of electricity production from renewable sources,” he said.
“Until the carbon price reaches this strength, the impact of increased gas supplies on reducing emissions will be either negative or neutral.
“Even after renewables reach a high share, further gas supplies have nothing more to help reduce emissions.”
According to the Chief Economist’s Office, the two largest LNG customers in Australia are China and Japan.
An analysis conducted ten years ago by engineering firm WorleyParsons (now known as Worley) looked at Australian LNG emissions when it was exported to China and burned at power plants.
The least polluted LNG produced from conventional wells burned in the most efficient gas-fired power plants produced 0.65 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt-hour. LNG from coal seams (the basis for the LNG export industry in Queensland) was dirtier, 0.73 tonnes per megawatt-hour. This is compared to hard coal, which produced 0.78 tons per megawatt-hour in the most efficient power plants and 1.03 tons in the dirtiest.
But more importantly, the WorleyParsons study noted that when LNG was exported for electricity, its greenhouse gas profile was at least 22 times dirtier than wind and 13 times dirtier than nuclear power.
Climate group event
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised “an end to the climate wars.” But newly approved opposition leader Peter Dutton has indicated that he wants to extend this particular cultural battlefield to children’s classes.
Sky News moderator and News Corp commentator Andrew Bolt told Dutton this week that children were crying for fear of the climate crisis, even as the dams filled, crops grew and “they were never less likely to die in a climate catastrophe.” .
“You will be the voice that says, look at science, it’s not a climate crisis that many people say,” Bolt asked, not to mention unprecedented forest fires, floods, sea level rise or basic greenhouse physics. effect.
Dutton said: “If it were limited to environmental or climate change issues, it would be bad enough.
“The extremism of some teachers and the language they use and the approach they take … But this applies to a number of areas of public policy.”
Dutton said he wanted to “shed light on” the problem and that teachers should be able to “stick to the facts,” arguing that “many teachers out there are incredibly frustrated by what is happening.”
Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie, dean of Southern Cross University School of Education and an expert in environmental education, says Dutton’s words are not true.
“That’s not the perspective I hear.” In fact, I haven’t heard from anyone in the educational community, “said Temperature Check.
“Children are so far behind whether or not climate change is man-made.
“The design of the teachers who spread the curriculum is completely wrong. It’s not about scaring. It’s about understanding the world. “
Transition to nuclear energy
In an Australian newspaper, commentator Claire Lehmann advocated “small modular nuclear reactors”. It sounds neat and neat, but the phrase covers a wide range of theoretical approaches and suggestions for building small nuclear power plants.
The World Nuclear Association lists only five small reactors that are currently in operation.
In her defense, Lehmann argued that while many environmentalists opposed nuclear power, they ignored that solar panels could “leak toxic heavy metals” and that wind turbines were responsible for “killing large numbers” of native birds.
The number of birds that die by flying into windows or being eaten by cats exceeds the small number that die when they fly into the turbine blades.
Unfortunately, Lehmann’s complaints about the possibility of a solar panel leak during the defense of nuclear energy were timed.
She did not know that just a few days later, a study would appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that any future development and deployment of small modular reactors would “increase the amount of nuclear waste it needs to manage and dispose of, depending on the factors.” 2 to 30 “, depending on the design.
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