EXPRESS #2 - October 30, 2018
The “future of gas” remains a hot topic in the European energy debate.
One of the applications (albeit a minor one) that the industry promotes is the use of gas in transport.
However, according to the influential Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), “using natural gas is is as bad for the climate as using petrol, diesel or conventional marine fuels.”
What is more, T&E claims that gas is not even of benefit to local air quality. In its new report it finds that “burning gas in cars also emits as much air pollution as petrol and the limited advantage over compliant diesel cars could be eliminated by planned new standards.”
Source: Transport & Environment
Those are pretty strong and surprising claims. What is behind them?
With regard to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, methane leakage is an important reason why gas does not do better than oil, according to T&E.
“When taking into account the effects of leakage of methane – a very potent greenhouse gas – fossil gas could increase GHG emissions by up to 9% or decrease them by a maximum of 12% across all transport modes”, notes T&E. “In cars, the GHG impact of compressed natural gas (CNG) ranges is similar to diesel, while in trucks it mirrors closely that of best-in-class diesel lorries. In shipping, the impact of liquified natural gas (LNG) is close to that of marine gas oil, but these figures are highly dependent on engine methane slip and upstream leakage.”
When it comes to local air quality, T&E finds that when methane-powered vehicles are compared to new petrol or diesel cars, which conform to Euro 6standards, the air pollution benefits of methane are virtually non-existent or “very limited in the best case scenario”.
This not only goes for fossil methane, writes T&E, but also for renewable methane! The best alternative to oil-powered transport, both when it comes to climate and to local air pollution, is battery-electric transport, the NGO claims.
Source: Transport & Environment
Jori Sihvonen, clean fuels officer at T&E, concludes that “[Natural] Gas cars, trucks and ships have no benefits for the climate and they’re a distraction from our real objective, zero-emission transport. Governments should resist the gas lobby’s offensive and stop wasting precious public money on gas infrastructure and tax breaks for fossil gas.”
In the EU, on average, gas is taxed at rates 76% lower than diesel, writes T&E. In countries with high sales of CNG and LNG vehicles, such as Italy, fossil gas enjoys even lower tax rates. Italy consumes 60% of the methane used in European transport and accounts for 68% of CNG car sales.
The NGO says “lawmakers must accept that fossil gas cannot help clean up transport and should start taxing it at the same rate as diesel and petrol.”
As to biomethane, that is not an option either, according to T&E. “Governments pinning their hopes for decarbonisation on biomethane from waste must recognise that it could only supply, at maximum, 9.5% of transport’s needs”, says the report. “This would also mean no biomethane would be left to decarbonise the other sectors already using gas – residential, heating and power – where the infrastructure already exists. Renewable gas based on electricity (power-to-gas) is very energy intensive and costly to produce.”