Post Carbon Institute Debunks False Hope Of Gas As ‘Bridge Fuel’

Sat, 2011-06-11 13:15Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

Post Carbon Institute Debunks False Hope Of Gas As ‘Bridge Fuel’

Touted by industry as a “clean energy” panacea, unconventional gas is widely heralded as deliverance from air pollution to global warming to foreign energy dependence. It is clean, the drillers say, and there is plenty of it. Descriptions like ‘trillions of cubic feet’ and ‘more than a century’s worth’ are becoming commonplace, used to prop up the vision of a clean, affordable and homegrown unconventional gas future.

But like most things that sound too good to be true, unconventional gas is no exception, as DeSmogBlog pointed out in our own recent report “Fracking the Future.”

Now, continuing to dispel some of the most egregious misconceptions regarding the future of gas, Post Carbon Institute Fellow David Hughes recently released a new report entitled Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?

In his report, Hughes takes on three myths undergirding our gas ambitions: that hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have guaranteed our access to a century’s worth of fuel; that the price of natural gas, which has been historically volatile, will remain low; and that, from a global warming and public health perspective, natural gas is a clean and safe alternative to other fossil fuels.

These assumptions, Hughes writes, are what agencies like the U.S. Energy Information Administration are relying on when it forecasts an increased reliance on shale gas in the coming decades, up to 47 percent of all domestic gas production by 2035. They are also what lies behind President Obama’s recent endorsement of natural gas as “clean” in his “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” and the new incentives for transforming America’s vehicle fleet. Other well-regarded environmental organizations like the Worldwatch Institute also joined the gas chorus, suggesting the potential for gas to act as a ‘bridge fuel’ during the transition away from other disastrous energy sources like coal and tar sands oil.

However, the somber lessons of the last decade’s worth of unprecedented drilling across the continent have demonstrated that the ideals behind our burgeoning commitment to gas are unfounded, if not outright nonsensical. If the growing archive of first hand accounts of toxic water and air pollution haven’t made us rethink industry claims, then the steady stream of independent scientific research questioning the fuel’s availability, affordability, safety and cleanliness might do the trick.

Another integral aspect of Hughes’ take-down of the shale gas dream is the impracticable wholesale transition of the nation’s fuel systems to gas. The scope of such a transformation – which would require the dismantling of old energy plants, vehicles, fueling stations and pipeline infrastructure and their subsequent retrofitting or replacement on a nationwide scale – is beyond any realistic economic means, especially with the fragility of the current U.S. economy. 

To support such a costly overhaul, domestic gas production would have to increase by over 100 percent, far above even the most optimistic projections. To retrofit one existing vehicle with a natural gas system currently costs approximately $10,000 in the U.S. And while fueling stations across the country could be switched to compressed natural gas (CNG) to supply smaller vehicles, only liquefied natural gas (LNG) is sufficiently dense to supply larger vehicles like long-haul trucks. LNG must be stored at -162 degrees Celsius and so would require a separate fueling infrastructure. 

In effect, beyond the troubling aspects of its production via fracking, the very notion that unconventional gas has the capacity to provide the nation with a ‘bridge fuel’ is completely misguided. In the first place, there simply is not enough of the fuel to support such deep dependence. 

Secondly, such a switch would also require tremendous amounts of additional resources to carry through, which introduces the additional concern of collateral emissions. And this doesn’t even touch on the equally laborious and resource-intensive replacement of coal-fired power plants. 

When considering the costs associated with committing to unconventional gas as an ‘interim’ fuel, it seems an absurdity, especially when the capital required could be directly invested in the production of truly clean renewable energy. 

Perhaps some were willing to shrug off the unfortunate environmental impacts of gas drilling to somehow usher in a clean energy future, one that held the promise of domestic energy security. But if we cannot rely upon the viability of gas as a clean, bountiful or secure energy alternative, then we must begin to consider, and invest in truly clean energy.

Hughes puts it well in his conclusion: “when it comes to fossil fuels there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Comments

Its a non-issue.
Since CO2 has been shown to be nothing more than harmless plant food, the only people that care are the investors in the failed AGW industry.

1000 ppm would be so much better for the planet.

"Since CO2 has been shown to be nothing more than harmless plant food"

By whom? Please provide a citation.

"1000 ppm would be so much better for the planet."

Sure, there has been higher CO2 levels in the past, but not during the Holocene Optimum when humans thrived. The relatively stable environment has allowed us to get where we are now & you want to change that? You don't even know what will happen after 380ppm let alone 1000ppm.

Take a look at the CO2 levels for the past 500,000 years derived from the vostok ice cores.

http://www.daviesand.com/Choices/Precautionary_Planning/New_Data/IceCores1.gif

It's in our economic & general well being interests to keep things at those levels & not artificially mess with it. 1000ppm might be ok for plants & the planet, but for humans, I suspect it wouldn't be "better".

If you look at the website of the mealy-mouthed left wing "Post Carbon Institute", you will find among their staff not one single person who has any background, training, experience or even the slightest understanding of the oil and gas industry -- they just don't like it.

Apparently, among all of these upper class white "community organizers", who never seemed to have held a real job outside of "non-profits", that's all the justification they need. More Soros money well-spent.

Apparently not.

"David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. He developed the National Coal Inventory to determine the availability and environmental constraints associated with Canada’s coal resources. As Team Leader for Unconventional Gas on the Canadian Gas Potential Committee, he coordinated the recent publication of a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s unconventional natural gas potential."

AGW-deniers are lucky they are not tried and convicted of treason against the United States of America and crimes against humanity.

Typical of rightwingers never to take responsibility for their actions.
Then hypocritically, they pass invalid laws against the behavior of others - behavior which is entirely harmless (homosexual sex, free speech, marijuana).

"AGW-deniers are lucky they are not tried and convicted of treason against the United States of America and crimes against humanity."

Really? Is it just because we are "lucky"? -- or is it that the world has not become as completely barking-at-the-moon insane, as your fringe Global Warming Death Cult has?

But it says more about your Climate Scientology Cult that you consider the mere act of disagreeing with you to be tantamount to treason, or a "crime against humanity". Ultimately, you are wanna-be totalitarians, and nothing more.

It would be easy to dismiss your comment as being the product of a lone addled mind, but it is not. The same desires have been voiced by no less prominent enviro-hucksters than James Hansen, David Suzuki, and George Monbiot. You just can't make this stuff up!

"Typical of rightwingers never to take responsibility for their actions.
Then hypocritically, they pass invalid laws against the behavior of others - behavior which is entirely harmless (homosexual sex, free speech, marijuana)."

So, let's see if we understand you correctly?

You accuse "rightwingers" (presumably your boogieman of choice) of "passing invalid laws [sic]" against "free speech", among other things.

Yet, in your previous paragraph, you expressed your ardent desire to punish anyone who dares to disagree with your views (ie., "deniers") with charges of treason and "crimes against humanity"?

In other words, anyone who says something you don't like gets the noose or firing squad -- but it's the "rightwingers" who are opressing your free speech?

Uh-huh ...

Thanks for reminding us all how utterly demented "environmental activists" have become.

"behavior which is entirely harmless (homosexual sex, free speech, marijuana)"

Maybe you need to put down the bong? In your case, it seems to be anything but "harmless"!

Dont be to harsh with them, they know not what they do...... LOL.

They are afterall just a bunch of hippies trying desperately to remake the world into a socialist utopia.

Dont tell them that Valium in the water would be faster.

They tell each other so often that evil capitalism and its CO2 emmissions are the end of us all that many wind up believing it.

Fortunatley, the scam is now in the open and the movement is nearly dead.

Kinda sad actually.

"Dont be to harsh with them, they know not what they do...... LOL"

Invoking bible quotes? Are you some religious nutter?

"They are afterall just a bunch of hippies"

One can only imagine your ideology if you think all people that are pro AGW are "hippies". I'm thinking confederate flags & a handy bottle of SPF 30+ for the neck.

"trying desperately to remake the world into a socialist utopia."

Wow, you have been duped good. Evidence? By advocating privately owned green tech companies?

"They tell each other so often that evil capitalism"

Talking about contradictions like our friend recycle above likes to point out. What exactly IS the denier position on this? You guys seem very confused. On one hand, we want socialism & capitalism is evil, then on the other hand our only interest is making ourselves rich off green tech investments & Al Gore is only lobbying to increase the wealth of his green tech investments. What is it?

"Fortunatley, the scam is now in the open and the movement is nearly dead."

Apparently the rest of the world except the USA, Canada & Australia didn't get the memo, as they have accepted the science & already committed to carbon reductions & seen the green tech opportunities.

Fortunately for you despite your best efforts, many American cities have gone it alone despite a lack of federal legislation.

http://www.grist.org/slideshow/2011-06-10-ten-most-climate-ready-cities

""AGW-deniers are lucky they are not tried and convicted of treason against the United States of America and crimes against humanity."

Really? Is it just because we are "lucky"? "

Obviously anonymous was getting emotive there, but it's happening on both sides. Right wingers are making death threats against pro agw scientists & using FOI to slow down or halt research, in the name of ideology & profit.

"In other words, anyone who says something you don't like gets the noose or firing squad"

That's drawing a long bow.

You forgot to include in your list of harmless actions:
Driving cars,
Flying in Jets,
Heating and cooling buildings,
breathing
and all other actions that generate harmless plant food.

Though the Natural Gas is a good source of fuel it is very limited source and as Hughes said it is not a free lunch

Wouldn't it be nice if we could have a civil debate, where we talked about the issues? Do we really need the name calling and hyperbole? Let's talk like adults on both sides and see if the conversation is a bit more productive...

- PCN

Sure we can talk like adults Mr.Poopy pants.

...for the solid overview of David's report. We're rather proud of his work, as the report has spread beyond our expectations, with over 11,000 downloads since its release.

The moment you see AGW-denialists bring up the word "hippy",
you KNOW they mean it in a derogatory-only way,
even though there is nothing wrong with being a hippy or a socialist or a communist, you can be sure you are talking to an anti-free-speech fanatic who not-so-secretly advocates rounding up and imprisoning hippies.

What's next? Rounding up Jews?

That's the NEXT thing to come out of their mouths.

I see this all the time with the pseudo-libertarian Alex-Jones types.
Alex Jones is great in many ways, stupid as hell about climate change.
But, way too many of his anti-government followers still attack innocent groups like Jews and hippies for the world's problems, rather than corporate-welfare-loving free-market-extremist banksters. Every other line out of their mouths is some anti-semitic remark.

Hypocritically, they never attack males, males, males. Attacking all males would be LESS unjustified than attacking Jews for the world's financial problems. And, no - I am not and never have been Jewish.

And yet, in spite of your ludicrous accusations, it is the left who are virulently antisemitic, and advocating the destruction of Israel.

"Nazi" stood for National SOCIALIST, so you're just being true to your roots.

""Nazi" stood for National SOCIALIST"

They might have had that in their name, but in practice, they were a right wing party, a fascist party. Look it up some time instead of listening to Glenn Beck. Use google & look for yourself. You will find it's from your side of politics Steve.

LOL!

Now look who's the denier.

Now Steve, I know its not in your interest to actually seek knowledge & hearsay is all you need, so I will provide the evidence.

Nazism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism

Excerpt: "Nazism was a far right form of politics"

Fascism:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fascism

Excerpt: "
fascism (ˈfæʃɪzəm)

— n

1.

any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism

2.

any ideology, movement, programme, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc

Game over, thanks for coming. Black jack, royal flush & check mate.

What is it with deniers & being wrong all the time?

"They might have had that in their name, but in practice, they were a right wing party, a fascist party."

Um nope sorry, they were a socialist party, the Nazis were on the left. They were totalitarian and they ran everything using centralized government control. In many of Hitlers speeches he frequently used terms like 'classless society' and my personal favorite 'social justice'. The Nazis were on the far left.

Cheers

I think that "bridge fuels" are a bridge to nowhere. There is nothing that can replace our current energy consumption, and it is growing rapidly. I have no faith that there will be anything short of a major crisis if not outright catastrophe.

"There is nothing that can replace our current energy consumption, and it is growing rapidly"

Once shale gas and methane hydrate are in full production, growing rapidly will be a serious understatement.

"Touted by industry as a “clean energy” panacea, unconventional gas is widely heralded as deliverance from air pollution to global warming to foreign energy dependence."

I do not give a rats-a%% if it is clean and it saves the world from climate catastrophe. I just want it, I want lots of it, and I want it to be cheap cheap cheap. And from what I have been reading, the world is awash in this natural gas. There is so much of this stuff that the fossil fuel industry is expected to grow explosivly over the next 20 years. You might say up to now the fossil fuel industry has only been in its infancy. You aint seen nothing yet. Wahoo!

[x]

A legal controversy — critics would say scandal — has erupted in Alaska's statehouse over the future of its natural gas bounty.

It's not so much an issue of the gas itself, but who gets to decide how it gets to market and where he or she resides.

The question of who owns Alaska's natural gas and where they're from, at least for now, has been off the table. More on that later.

At its core, the controversy centers around a public-private entity called the Alaska Gasline Development...

read more