Mar 11, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Gas at the crossroads of security and climate

Illustration of arrows crossing over each other with natural gas flames lit on each end

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

HOUSTON — The twin crises of Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine and climate change are putting an intense glare on the role of natural gas producers outside Russia in boosting Europe's energy security.

Driving the news: G7 energy ministers, in a statement Thursday, called on producers to put more supplies into global markets.

  • It notes increased liquefied natural gas shipments can help address potential disruptions in Europe and backs more LNG investment.

Why it matters: More gas from outside Russia including continued growth of U.S. LNG shipments is part of European officials' plans to lessen their strategic vulnerability.

  • But investments in new infrastructure could lock in more long-term use — and environmentalists are sounding the alarm.
  • Gas emits far less CO2 than coal, but it's still a big emissions source, and methane leaks eat into the benefits.
  • And a net-zero emissions pathway would also likely mean gas use would need to decline significantly in coming decades, especially if widespread CO2 capture doesn't become commercialized.

What they're saying: "How do we incentivize companies and others to invest in natural gas infrastructure, and infrastructure for fossil fuels, at the same time we send the message that we’re going to accelerate the energy transition," said Harvard energy expert Meghan O'Sullivan.

  • "There’s some tension between those two messages, and those will be hard to manage in tandem," O'Sullivan told the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference Wednesday.

The intrigue: Biden administration officials here have voiced overall support for gas, not just in the EU context. But with caveats, too.

  • "Gas is going to be a key component of the [energy] transition. There's no question. But not unabated gas. It can't go on forever," U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry said onstage here Monday.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on FERC Chairman Richard Glick's supportive comments on U.S. LNG replacing some coal-fired power in Europe.

Alan Neuhauser contributed reporting.

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