Pedal to the metal? Leicester academic’s report on new ‘dash for gas’

Posted by mjs76 at Jun 28, 2012 02:49 PM |
Friends of the Earth publish Geographer’s renewable energy report on the future of gas power.

Friends of the Earth recently commissioned Professor Mike Bradshaw from our Department of Geography to research and write an independent report on the future of natural gas as an energy source in the UK. The report, which is a response to Energy Secretary Ed Davey’s promotion of new gas power station, was published this week.

Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the Government is legally bound to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels). However, the Energy Secretary earlier this year encouraged the building of new gas-fired power stations by saying that any which receive planning consent before 2015 will not have to cut emissions before 2045.

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Professor Bradshaw’s report outlines a whole raft of problems with this policy, including:

  • Possible failure to meet the CCA targets
  • Further increases in gas prices
  • Continued dependence on the ‘big six’ energy companies
  • Reduced investment in renewable energy
  • Dependence on as-yet unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology
  • Risk of environmental damage from accidents such as the recent Elgin gas platform

The report also points out the potential political problems of relying for a large part of our gas imports on liquefied natural gas imported from Qatar, all of which is shipped through Iranian territorial waters in the Gulf of Hormuz. Interestingly, while France routinely stores enough gas to power the country for 87 days and Germany keeps 69 days’ worth on hand, the UK has just 14 days of gas storage capacity.

Some commentators have advocated the use of shale gas as a ‘transition fuel’ but Professor Bradshaw warns of “substantial logistical and environmental challenges” and says that it cannot be assumed that the current shale gas boom in the USA can be repeated here.

The full 38-page report Time to take our foot off the gas? The role of gas in UK energy security is available to download as a 2,5MB PDF and the main points are summarised in a six-page briefing document.

Mike, who is Professor of Human Geography, is currently completing a book entitled Global Energy Dilemmas: Energy Security, Globalization and Climate Change, based on a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship which he completed last year.