Natural gas revolution – Stalling renewable progress or useful ‘bridge fuel’?

In recent weeks natural gas has seen increase in media attention. In the UK, the focus has been on the procurement of natural gas (i.e. fracking), and whether this gives the UK an opportunity for energy self-sufficiency at the detriment of the environment. However, in the US the discussion centres on the new-found popularity of natural gas as the go to fuel source.

The impact on the US energy market is profound, as it gives manufacturers access to ‘cleaner’ fuel, as natural gas produces notably less carbon dioxide than burning coal. To dub it a ‘clean’ fossil fuel is misleading. Natural gas contributes more methane to the environment than coal and therefore should still be used with caution.

Nonetheless, proponents of natural gas focus on the lessened C02 impact, and try to sell natural gas as the cleanest fossil fuel. This standpoint can be dangerous to the renewables market, as natural gas is a more established source of fuel, and thus easier to purchase. This could affect fledgling renewables programs, as it may discourage spending on changing infrastructure in developing economies.

Conversely, it is claimed by others that natural gas can be used as a bridging fuel, to build upon renewable infrastructure, without having to completely eliminate fossil fuel use.

With both viewpoints finding significant backing by experts, it remains to be seen whether fracking will become a viable option, or even if it will be allowed to go ahead.

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