COVID-19: a key moment to think of a more sustainable future
Last week we shared a recent report from Harvard University that found that the regions with the highest levels of particulate matter and pollution in the United States were the ones with the highest death rates from Covid-19. Along these same lines, we want to continue making visible this unprecedented phenomenon, which is affecting world health and economy, and the importance of seeking more sustainable practices to face the future.
For a long time, many governments around the world have outlined ambitious climate goals and have – current and future – strict regulations to reduce their environmental footprint and decarbonize the transport sector, one of the main generators of polluting emissions in the atmosphere. However, many of these goals aim to achieve zero emissions through technologies that are at an incipient level of development, as is the case of electric vehicles.
Although many automakers already offer this type of vehicle, with batteries, fuel cells or hybrids, its price is not within the reach of the entire population or its development is not enough for all automotive segments. For example, heavy road transport requires extensive travel range, as well as a solid network of refueling stations on its routes, which electric vehicles do not yet offer.
Currently, governments face the difficult task of controlling the health emergency and, at the same time, introducing economic and social recovery measures. But they must also take into account the ecological factor to address the future.
In this sense, natural gas as a transport fuel is available today and is a 100% developed and proven technology, used in all types of vehicles (private cars, vans, buses and heavy trucks), as well as in maritime and railway transport. In the form of CNG or LNG, this energy can be a fundamental piece of government policy to help improve the air in cities and drive an efficient and economical energy transition.
Thanks to its environmental benefits (30% less CO2, 75% less NOx, and almost zero emissions of particles and SO2), natural gas powered mobility will allow to rebuild more sustainable economies in the short term, always meeting the medium- and long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement. In turn, the cost of natural gas is usually half that of gasoline or diesel, so it will also serve to recover the economy from any pocket.
What is more, when using natural gas from renewable sources (biomethane), neutrality in CO2 emissions can be achieved. This fuel has a zero CO2 balance because it avoids the emissions produced in the fermentation of the waste and maintains the same benefits as natural gas for air quality. In addition, renewable natural gas is totally interchangeable with natural gas, allowing it to be distributed using current infrastructure, whether for vehicle, industrial, commercial or home use.
We are all witnessing how the pandemic and the restriction of hundreds of activities around the world, including the very circulation of people in urban centers, have been beneficial for the environment due to low levels of pollution. Fish and crystal clear waters in Venice, wild animals in deserted streets, are some cases.
Therefore, it is crucial that policymakers can tackle the critical situation the world is going through from a sustainable perspective, becoming aware of the importance of the environment and taking advantage of the tools that are already available to start making change today.