The good news is we’ve got new allies in the fight against coal. The bad news is they are the CEOs of major gas companies hoping we’ll ignore all the downsides of gas if they point out that coal is even worse.
Over the last week there were heated exchanges between Coal and Gas chiefs in “a global fight…between the gas and coal industries as part of position ahead of an international climate change conference in Paris in December.” At the World Gas Conference, (also in Paris), executives from Shell, BP, Total and Woodside Petroleum, among others, attacked coal as a pollutant and greenhouse gas emitter, while promoting gas as a cleaner alternative.
Woodside Petroleum CEO, Peter Coleman, derided the idea of “clean coal” in an effort to promote gas as a less polluting fossil fuel with lower greenhouse gas emissions. European gas industry interests attempted to include gas in with carbon pricing, carbon capture and storage, and biofuels as measures to combat climate change.
Coal industry representatives fought back, stating that new technologies can reduce carbon emissions from coal fired power stations, and that coal will be needed to lift developing nations out of poverty.
Renewable energy sources were notably omitted from the discussion, as were any findings on more accurate testing of the methane emissions from natural gas. No doubt the findings demonstrating that gas is as great if not greater an emitter of greenhouse gas as coal would undermine the image of gas as a “cleaner” source of energy.
Equally concerning is Opposition resources spokesman Gary Gray’s condemnation of the comments as “unwise” on the grounds that they “talk down the prospects of one source of Australia exports”.
None of the mainstream commentary mentioned the other contaminating and dangerous effects of gas, although the expansion of gas production they promoted would predominantly come from onshore or unconventional gas mining. Exxon’s CEO “called on Europe to be more open to hydraulic fracturing.”
Woodside Petroleum’s Peter Coleman criticised coal pollution as the cause of millions of deaths from smog. None of the effects of unconventional gas were used by the coal industry to counter this argument. The cases of neuropathy, the developmental delays, birth defects, infertility and other medical problems caused by chemicals used and produced in UCG extraction- Loss of access to clean food and water, loss of livelihood, habitat and community- all were omitted from the discussion.
Meanwhile citizens of fifteen countries supported action to reduce climate change in an online survey. In Australia only 3 percent of those surveyed didn’t support an international agreement on climate change and 59 percent believe we should take a leadership role in combating greenhouse gas emissions.
The people are behind it and the evidence supports it. Even the coal and gas company CEO’s admit there’s a problem. While we should take heart from the infighting in the fossil fuel industry – a clear sign of desperation in a dying industry – we should certainly not look to them for solutions. Surely any plan to reduce global warming must include renewable technology.