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DW Monday: The Journey From Black to Green

By April 27, 2015September 7th, 2022No Comments

DW Monday

The industrial revolution and ensuing growth of the great cities of the western world some 200 years ago was enabled by a change in primary energy supply – from wood to coal. Today it is said we are at the beginning of another period of change, from fossil fuels to sustainable energy – the move from black to green. However, this cannot be achieved all at once, it is a long journey and the first step is to change from burning highly polluting coal to cleaner natural gas.

Indeed to some extent this is already happening; coal-fired power generation in the US provided 39% of electricity production in 2014, down from 53% 1997, mainly as a result of the move to lower cost natural gas. In the European Union between 2000 and end 2013 coal consumption fell by 11%. However, the world still burns huge amounts of coal, accounting for some 30% of global fuel consumption. Even in the UK, where the industrial revolution began, on Christmas day 2014, 38% of electricity still came from burning coal.

In the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference ‘COP21’ in Paris in December 2015, green activists are already embarked on a campaign calling for disinvestment from the oil & gas industry. In April the Guardian Media Group announced it will divest from fossil fuel companies. Academia has joined the campaign with sit-ins underway in a number of universities.

Much of this rhetoric is misdirected. There is a major gap between the realities of oil & gas and the public understanding of its fundamental importance to society. To many, filling the car tank is just a tax on driving and natural gas a monthly charge on home ownership. Few realise the sheer scale and importance of the oil & gas industry, not just in the supply of fuels but also its role as a provider of a huge range of products essential to our daily lives, from plastics to pharmaceuticals, from fertilisers to house paint.

The industry should be recognised a part of the solution in providing the natural gas that can enable step one of the journey, to stop burning coal.

John Westwood, Douglas-Westwood London
+44 203 4799 505  or   [email protected]