EU should skip LNG’s ‘bridge to nowhere’ and leap to sustainable energy

As pipeline-delivered natural gas continues to be a politically unstable energy source for Europe, officials in Brussels are exploring large-scale importation of liquefied natural gas from alternative sources – including the shale gas industry in the United States. Cornell Professor Robert Howarth, an expert on the atmospheric implications of methane, COP21 delegate and author of “A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas,” is meeting with members of the European Parliament and European Commission this week to warn them against the climate change folly of LNG. The smart step, Howarth argues, is to leap past shale gas and build Europe’s energy future firmly on true renewables – wind, solar, hydro and geothermal.

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Howarth says:

“As we move ever closer to a ‘tipping point’ that could trigger massive and rapid shifts in global climate patterns, it is essential we act rapidly to reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. While methane lingers in the atmosphere for far less time than our primary climate change focus – carbon dioxide – it has more than 100 times as powerful as a greenhouse gas. The only way to act swiftly and meet COP21 goals for controlling greenhouse gas emissions is to move boldly to control methane.

“A move by the European Union toward liquefied natural gas supplied in large part by the shale gas industry in the United States would represent a troubling step backward in that effort. Recent research into methane emissions has found that shale gas extraction leaks about three times as much methane into the atmosphere as conventional wells. In addition, the liquefaction process itself is energy intense, and as much as 6 percent of the gas can ‘boil off’ during the 20-day transit from the U.S. to Europe.

“What’s more, the sizable infrastructure investment required to import and distribute LNG throughout Europe represents an equally massive missed opportunity to leap past this bridge to nowhere and build the energy future of the European Union on the much more solid foundation of truly green renewables such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal. By making this one decision wisely, Europe can then claim two victories in the battle to control climate change – the single most important duty of our generation.”

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