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Study: Liquid natural gas, the great future hope of Robert Habeck's Green energy policy, causes up to THREE TIMES more emissions than coal

Study: Liquid natural gas, the great future hope of Robert Habeck's Green energy policy, causes up to THREE TIMES more emissions than coal
Photo by Nikolay Kovalenko / Unsplash

Let us review some recent history:

In 2021, Germany owed 27% of its total energy supply to natural gas. We imported over 40% of this natural gas from Russia. Then the Ukraine war happened, and by September the gas had slowed to a trickle. To compensate, we increased imports from the Netherlands and Belgium, but neither land supplies nearly enough to make up the shortfall. Our Green Minister of Economic Affairs, Robert Habeck, decided that Germany must turn to liquid natural gas (LNG) imports. Right now, Germany can import LNG only via three floating terminals, and so we still use relatively little of it.

Gas imports to Germany by country, in gigawatt hours per day. The dark pinkish orange is LNG.

The future will be different. When a further three floating terminals are brought online in the coming months, we’ll have a total LNG capacity equal to half of the 2021-era Russian supply. In 2026/27, we’ll also have three stationary terminals, increasing our capacity still further.

Greens like Habeck profess to loathe all fossil fuels, but they loathe natural gas the least, and there are two reasons for this: First, natural gas-fired power plants can spool up very quickly, and without any energy storage solutions on the horizon, this makes them a necessary component of the German power grid, which is larded with intermittent renewables. Second, natural gas produces less carbon dioxide when it is burned than coal and oil. To save democracy and to save the climate, Habeck has therefore arranged for a future in which Germany will be awash in expensive emissions-saving LNG until we can complete the energy transition and enjoy our abundant cheap renewable energy utopia.

Except, as it turns out, LNG is not emissions-friendly. It is very much the opposite. In particular, LNG imported from the United States (which dominates the global supply) causes more emissions than oil and even more emissions than coal. These are the conclusions of the Cornell ecologist Robert W. Howarth in a new preprint (h/t Welt). The reasons are simple: Shale extraction is itself a CO2-intensive process. The gas this extraction produces is nothing but methane, and methane has a vastly stronger greenhouse effect than CO2. Substantial methane leaks occur at every stage of LNG production, storage and transport, and while more modern ships can use the evaporating methane to power their engines during the voyage, it is not enough to outweigh the costs.

In fact, as Howarth writes, “In all of the scenarios .. across all types of tankers, methane emissions exceed emissions of carbon dioxide from the final combustion of LNG.” Before you get to even use LNG, in other words, you have emitted more greenhouse gases than the burning of it will ever release. And even in the best case, with the best modern tankers and the shortest trips, total emissions from LNG exceed those of coal by 24%. In the worst case, LNG is almost three times as bad.

What is happening here is just very remarkable. The Greens profess to believe that unless we can achieve net-zero in the coming decades, we face civilisational catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions. Everything they have done, however, just makes electricity more expensive, reduces the reliability of the grid, and does nothing about CO2. It is like they want to be the world’s greatest energy transition retards. They firmly supported anti-Russia sanctions and also fought tooth and nail to shut down our last nuclear plants, not only forcing Germany to rely instead on imported and more expensive nuclear power (thus doing nothing about the alleged risks), but also cementing for the moment our dependence on coal, including loathed lignite.1 Not to worry, they say; reactivating the coal plants is only a temporary measure. Soon, we’ll be able to import enough LNG to get away from coal so we can have even more expensive electricity while causing even worse emissions.

We are ruled by total clowns. 1

There is no global lignite market, which means that lignite is not subject to the Green paradox. The lignite that Germany does not mine will never be used, nor will it be offset by increases in lignite consumption elsewhere. If the Greens were serious people and not clowns, they would apply all of their irrational nuclear phobias to lignite instead, as this is really the only place they have any political hope of reducing emissions even slightly.

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