October 25th, 2016

Fossil Fuel Lock-in: Why Gas Is A False Solution

By Frida Kieninger

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PANO: Event in the EU Parliament: GAS – A Bridge Fuel to Global Warming? (part of the main conference)

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Event at the gas conference: “Fossil Fuel Lock-in: Why Gas Is a False Solution.”

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Food & Water Watch Board of Director member Prof. Robert Howarth speaking at the Gas conference.

Last month, about 40 activists, campaigners and researchers gathered for three days in Brussels to discuss the problem of gas being the false solution for climate change. The participants of the conference came mainly from different European states, but also from Argentina, North Africa and the United States. What brought all those different people together was the wish to confront the manifold problems that the extraction of natural gas and the construction of more and more gas infrastructure entail.

Resistance to Fracking in North Africa and Argentina

There is the case of Algeria, where a large protest movement opposes fracking projects from France, which ironically banned fracking on its own territory. There is the issue of Tunisians who have to buy gas extracted on their own land like a foreign commodity. And there is the threat that the development in shale gas production in the Maghreb countries could eventually lead to contamination of the Northwestern Sahara Aquifer System, forming the basis of livelihoods for local communities.

In Argentina, the whole political spectrum supports fracking and shale gas production, which in the enormous Vaca Muerta shale gas field is threatening agriculture, local and indigenous communities and the global climate.

Fighting Huge Pipeline Projects

As the case of the Keystone XL pipeline (which would have crossed the United States and parts of Canada and was finally rejected in 2015) shows, mobilization against big fossil fuel projects can be very successful.

A similar gigantic pipeline project that would transport gas from Azerbaijani gas fields over 3.500km to Italy is threatening tourism, agriculture and local residents in Greece, Italy, Albania and Turkey. The Southern Gas Corridor is, as so many other projects the EU supports at the moment, supposedly necessary to diversify gas supply in Europe and decrease dependency on Russian gas. An oppressive regime in Azerbaijan and the threat that fluctuating oil and gas export poses to the economy of the Central Asian country makes clear that this source is not any more ethical or reliable.

The Alleged European Greed for Gas –  A Mere Construction?

In the EU institutions, gas is wrongly touted as the perfect partner for renewable energy and as “necessary bridge fuel and back up for unreliable wind and solar power”. While Commission representatives, EU parliament deputies and representatives of the Member States are subject to heavy lobbying by big oil and gas companies, the renewables lobby itself is now controlled by fossil fuel firms like Enel, Engie, or Total.

Although any expansion of gas infrastructure goes against gas demand forecasts and counteracts the EU climate targets as well as the global Paris Agreement, high-level Commission officials speak about the need for more gas import capacities, give the green light for European public funding of gas projects and focus on an alleged need for more European gas infrastructure.

Methane Emissions and A Shocking Vote on LNG

Methane emissions from production, transport and combustion of gas, mean its global warming potential is 86 times higher than that of CO2 over the next 20 years; meanwhile, we might have only few years left to tackle catastrophic climate change. Yet the European Parliament’s Energy Committee has voted on a report on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the results are shocking: There is no reference to the global Paris Agreement on Climate in the core text and gas is illustrated repeatedly as “sustainable” and a solution for a “reduction in greenhouse gas emissions”. In addition to these obviously incorrect statements, the report calls for further investment in and expansion of LNG infrastructure, strongly welcoming free trade agreements and the elimination of all barriers to free trade in LNG. This would open the doors widely for fracked gas from the US or Australia.

Ups and Downs in the UK

And just a few days later came the bad news from the UK: Cuadrilla, a shale gas company, wanted to frack in Lancashire, but the County Council opposed these plans. At the beginning of this month, the UK government allowed the appeal of Cuadrilla against the decision of the Lancashire County Council, allowing the company to frack in Preston New Road.

Moreover, on September 27, one of the so-called INEOS “dragon ships” delivered a first cargo of ethylene from the US to the port of Grangemouth, Scotland. Not only does a big share of this ethylene originate from fracking, it is even more ironic that ethylene is mainly used for plastics production and not even for energy generation.

Still, good news arrived from Scotland in these past few turbulent days: The Scottish government has banned the highly controversial technique of underground coal gasification (UCG). UGC is another extreme and unproven fossil fuel extraction process entailing serious public health, climate and environmental risks.

What`s for sure is that all over the globe people are fighting for clean water, clean air and a thriving environment, and opposing megaprojects for mega-companies.

Here is the video of the EU Parliament event taking place as part of the conference.

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