In its latest attack on increased use of natural gas, Global Energy Monitor claims that liquefied natural gas “poses a direct challenge to Paris climate goals.” And despite the absurdity of such an argument – when natural gas is credited with helping decrease U.S. emissions to their lowest levels since the early 1990s – media outlets like CNN are still reporting on the report without giving any context to the group’s agenda or to relevant emissions data.
As S&P Platts reporter Harry Weber said:
Not only is it relevant, but the central theme of the report is absolutely absurd.
— Harry R. Weber (@HarryRWeber) July 2, 2019
Global Energy Monitor Has a Clear “Keep It In the Ground” Agenda
Noticeably absent from coverage of this report calling for a “moratorium on further [LNG export terminal] construction,” is any discussion of the organization’s funders. But a quick glance at GEM’s website shows it’s a list worth mentioning:
GEM’s funders are some of the top KIITG foundations and groups collaboratively working to end global oil and natural gas development, particularly in the United States.
For instance, the ClimateWorks Foundation gave the Energy Foundation nearly $15.3 million and the Natural Resources Defense Council close to $2.9 million in 2016 and 2017, according to the organization’s 990s. Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Foundation, which recently launched a campaign against natural gas power plants, received more than $500,000 in 2016 from CWF.
Like the Sierra Club, NRDC has actively opposed oil and natural gas development, saying that “[i]nstead of increasing our dependence on fracking and fossil fuels, the United States needs to continue to transition toward a truly clean energy economy.” The group also calls for “ending our dependence on dangerous, climate-warming fossil fuels.”
A 2018 Northeastern University study showed how the Energy Foundation is “the main instrument that a network of influential U.S. philanthropists has used to define a portfolio of policy options, political strategies, and energy technologies to address climate change.” That includes KIITG policies for oil and natural gas development.
The Rockefellers – through the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Rockefeller Family Fund – have also wielded an influential hand in directing this echo chamber. They fund everything from the #ExxonKnew campaign to guides explaining how to eliminate the fossil fuel industry.
And yet, none of this was disclosed in any mainstream articles on GEM’s report.
Reality Check: The World Is Using More Natural Gas
GEM calls LNG a “stranded asset” that’s instability is a “long-term financial viability of fracked gas.” But according to the International Energy Agency’s 2018 World Energy Outlook, global energy demand will grow by roughly a quarter through 2040, led by LNG-importing markets in Asia – a complete reversal of previous global demand scenarios dominated by North America and Europe.
A combination of renewables and natural gas will “meet more than 80 percent of the increase in global demand,” and gas demand alone will rise by 1.6 percent, according to IEA. As, CNBC reported:
“Natural gas is expected to overtake coal as the world’s second largest energy source after oil by 2030 due to a drive to cut air pollution and the rise in LNG use.”
The United States will lead the growth in natural gas production, with the increased LNG market reaching previously isolated markets.
Similarly, BP’s 2019 Energy Outlook determined that through 2040:
In other words, LNG is far from “stranded” and will be an important global commodity over the next few decades, as a result of the shale revolution.
Science Doesn’t Support GEM’s Methane Emissions Conclusions
Further, GEM told CNN that “if the proposed LNG expansion goes forward, the climate impact would be twice as damaging as the current installed base of coal in the United States.” To reach such a conclusion, GEM describes “seven key numbers”, but offers no context on the cause or impact of these figures.
For instance, GEM cites a 2018 study stating that global atmospheric methane emissions have risen at an accelerated rate, and without context beyond the focus of the report, misleadingly allows readers to assume oil and natural gas is to blame – despite scientists disagreeing with that hypothesis.
A recent UnDark article looked to global “methane detectives” to determine what might be causing these spikes. And while they did not have a concrete answer for what the cause is, there was agreement on what it isn’t: oil and natural gas.
GEM also includes a flawed 2018 study that increased the oil and gas methane leakage rate estimate by about 60 percent to 2.3 percent. Even if that were accurate, the same group that authored that study admits that for natural gas to maintain its climate benefits over coal, leakage rates have to remain under 3.2 percent. They are, and in fact, recent studies suggest that this threshold is actually much higher at between 9 to 12 percent.
“Recent studies showing increases of methane emissions from oil and gas production have overestimated their volume by as much as 10 times.”
And a recent EID analysis of the America’s top shale fields – the Permian and Appalachian basins – found that methane emissions and the intensity (emissions per unit of production) of those emissions are falling despite skyrocketing oil and natural gas production.
Weber said it best when he called the central theme of GEM’s report absurd. Hopefully other media outlets will follow his lead and, at the very least, insert important context into this discussion that GEM has misleadingly left out.
Reducing emissions, while also meeting the global demand for energy, is of utmost importance to the U.S. oil and natural gas industry. And despite what this report claims, the United States is proving it is possible to do both.
For even more information, be sure to check out Energy Information Australia’s article “Global Energy Monitor’s Latest Report Misses Several Key Facts About LNG.”