Solon: Natural gas, harmful to environment

February 19, 2020

A PARTY LIST lawmaker on Thursday said Philippines should not invest too much on natural gas because, unknown to many, this is also harmful to the environment.

Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Mamamayan (Agham) party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones said the claim of some corporations that natural gas is clean is not true.

Palmones, president of Agham, said the news of Fitch SolutionsMacro Research flagging the country’s lack of focus on clean energy development in its long-term energy plan, particularly in the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by saying it is not clean    and not a bridge to cleaner energy is lamentable.

He said natural gas or methane gas is a fossil fuel like coal and oil and may produce the same amount or even higher Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions than other fossil fuels.

Palmones, a dzRH broadcaster, said the science-centricconsumer group highlighted how “all methane-based gas emits carbon dioxide (CO2) when it is combusted.  More importantly, methane leakage throughout the entire gas supply chain creates additional climate impacts.”

AGHAM said in its statement that “contrary to popular belief, natural or methane gas is not as clean as it has been made out to be. We believe the Philippines’ power industry has underestimated methane emissions and it is absolutely critical and vital that we should look at the full-life cycle of natural gas and not just at the point of combustion.

“From drilling, fracking, transportation, storage all the way to the point that the energy reaches the consumers, there is already a lot of methane leakage occurring, both unintentional or fugitive, and intentional, referred to as venting. These leaks are hazardous to the environment,” the group said.

“There is strong evidence that when the full life cycle is taken into account, natural or methane gas can produce the same amount or more GHG emissions as other fossil fuels.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated that methane is 34 times stronger as a heat-trapping gas than CO2,” the group added.

AGHAM referred to methane as CO2 on steroids, as it spends roughly 12 years trapping atmospheric heat 87 times more effectively than CO2, then it becomes CO2 itself.

Palmones pointed out that “yes, we agree with our government and regulators in pursuing cleaner energy sources, but it is crucial to look in the right directions. LNG or methane gas may not be the best option. And limiting methane is not what determines whether gas is positive for the transition to clean energy. With or without methane leakage, gas is not clean. Nor is gas the answer to the challenges of transitioning to a genuinely clean energy future.”

In fact, Palmones explains that “it’s time for a deeper analysis of the data at hand. Based on the studies we have been going through, when researchers examine the full impact of natural gas many conclude that it is not substantially better for the climate than coal. In fact, under some circumstances, it may even be worse. LNG is just as harmful to the environment as other fossil fuels. It is not a replacement for renewable energy.”

AGHAM cited that “based on our extensive studies, there are multiple reasons why gas should not be relied upon to form a bridge to a clean energy future. We need less, not more of gas. Another problem that arises from natural or methane gas, is all contracts with LNG power plants make use of the take-or-pay provision, which means that even if the power plant does not produce electricity, consumers are forced to pay for the gas supply. In the past, this has led to billions of pesos in payment for undelivered power which is in turn passed on to consumers as additional cost. This is another factor that makes our group hesitant to fully endorse natural gas, as this may lead to higher power costs.”

Palmones concluded by reminding the public of the Paris Agreement, saying “if we continue to push for gas, we will be breaking the carbon budget, and this will be inconsistent with the climate goals. Switching to methane gas from other fossil fuels simply will not cut it. It would be much wiser to instead invest on low-cost renewables which can displace natural or methane gas. Gas is not the only source that can ensure grid reliability. There is no reason for gas to be favored as the primary solution.”

“So, before more gas infrastructure is built in the Philippines, locking in emissions for decades to come, more study must be done by government to assess the impact of LNG on the planet,” the group added.