Fos­sil fu­els are here for while so let’s make them cleaner

The New Zealand Herald - - Opinion -

It’s com­mon to think oil and gas are on the way out, in the long term at least, given the need to tackle cli­mate change. It might be sur­pris­ing to hear this isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the case. Fore­casts show we’ll be us­ing oil and gas for many decades to come, but the good news is we can do this with much less of an im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

Firstly, we can help the world move away from coal to nat­u­ral gas which has half the emis­sions. That is why the real en­ergy revo­lu­tion sweep­ing the world isn’t so­lar or wind, it’s nat­u­ral gas.

Global de­mand for nat­u­ral gas is ex­pected to grow 45 per cent by 2040 and the world pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to reach nine bil­lion in that year. We are look­ing at an in­creas­ingly wealthy, ur­banised and en­ergy-hun­gry world. There is no way re­new­able en­ergy can meet even half of this new de­mand, so it’s no sur­prise the world is turn­ing to nat­u­ral gas. It is af­ford­able, abun­dant, rel­a­tively easy to trans­port and clean-burn­ing.

De­vel­op­ing and ex­port­ing our nat­u­ral gas re­serves to places such as Asia is po­ten­tially a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion that New Zealand can make to re­duc­ing global emis­sions and tack­ling cli­mate change.

End­ing new per­mits for off­shore ex­plo­ration in New Zealand has greatly re­duced the chances of this hap­pen­ing and we now have just over 10 years of known re­serves left.

What an ab­surd out­come it will be if we end up hav­ing to im­port more ex­pen­sive and higher-emit­ting LNG (or coal) when we have our own sup­plies of nat­u­ral gas.

The right pol­icy tools, such as the emis­sions trad­ing scheme, can help by en­cour­ag­ing lower-emit­ting sources. New tech­nolo­gies such as car­bon cap­ture and stor­age mean we can use fos­sil fu­els while cap­tur­ing the emis­sions and then stor­ing them un­der­ground. This tech­nol­ogy is al­ready in use around the world, and peo­ple are look­ing into how to use it ef­fec­tively in New Zealand.

We will also need to plant many more trees, through af­foresta­tion or re­for­esta­tion, to off­set emis­sions, and we are re­duc­ing the “fugi­tive” emis­sions that oc­cur when oil and gas are pro­duced.

Nearly ev­ery global en­ergy fore­cast for the fu­ture shows a ma­jor and on­go­ing role for oil and gas. It will be a dif­fer­ent role — less oil will be turned into petrol, for ex­am­ple.

But fos­sil fu­els will still be very im­por­tant for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion, trans­port and in­dus­trial use as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing ev­ery­day prod­ucts and cre­at­ing new, clean fu­els. Dr Kate Brom­field is chair­woman of the Petroleum Ex­plo­ration and Pro­duc­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand’s net zero com­mit­tee. The re­port, A Chang­ing Role: The Fu­ture of Oil and Gas in a Lower Car­bon World, is avail­able at pepanz.com/dms­doc­u­ment/92

Kate Brom­field com­ment

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