Threatened by action to reduce climate emissions, the gas industry has a long history of claiming to be green. Leaked documents show how they are now trying to convince the world that liquified natural gas (LNG) is the best thing since sliced bread.
In the 80s and 90s, the gas industry sold themselves as the green alternative to coal. ‘Better than coal’ isn’t much use as a slogan now that coal burning has almost stopped – our two coal-fired power stations in Scotland shut down some years ago and the UK Government plans to close all coal-fired power stations before the end of next year.
The industry moved on to telling us that, of course, we’re heading to a 100 per cent renewable future but gas is the bridging fuel that will help us get there. More recently, the great hope has been to use gas with carbon capture to make hydrogen for industry and home heating.
But the UK Government seems to have given up on the idea of using hydrogen to heat people’s homes, with the public backlash forcing them to abandon proposals for a trial of home heating in Cheshire. The one small trial that is underway is in Fife and isn’t doing too well either, since it is running more than a year late and still hasn’t supplied anyone with any hydrogen.
When it comes to conventional natural gas boilers, in Scotland you won’t be able to install a gas boiler in a new property after next April and a million homes are supposed to be on zero-emissions heating by 2030. A recent report suggested the UK will be squandering £9 billion on foreign gas over the next decade because of the slow roll-out of heat pumps for home heating, at one of the slowest rates in Europe, ten times slower than France for instance.
Leaked documents from lobby group the International Gas Union reveal their strategy to greenwash LNG. The environmental impact of LNG is high. It takes a lot of energy to turn gas into a liquid, ship it and then turn it back into gas at the other end. Its carbon footprint is about twice that of normal natural gas.
The International Gas Union exists to promote the fossil gas industry. It was founded in the 1930s, has a secretariat based in London and its 150 members include all of the big fossil fuel companies you would expect, including Shell and BP.
The leaked documents reveal plans to counteract the existential threat to the gas industry from the climate change debate, including finding “a positive message to defend and enhance the role of gas in the global energy dynamic”. In Europe, the message is about the ‘greening of gas’. The IGU states that it is trying to influence the UN, G20, World Bank and other international funders, as well as making links with environmental groups, think tanks and media organisations.
Friends of the Earth Scotland recently found the fossil fuel industry met with Scottish ministers 212 times between March 2018 and December 2022. Lobbying meetings like these and propaganda campaigns by the fossil fuel industry continue to confuse debate and delay the strong action to reduce climate emissions the world so urgently needs.