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Gas as a transition fuel is just industry spin, regurgitated by politicians.

11 January 2024

On an almost daily basis we hear West Australian politicians push for more gas, claiming it is a necessary transition fuel.

Gas as a transition fuel might made sense a decade ago. Today, it’s just industry spin, regurgitated by politicians.

In 2013 gas was believed to be 50% less polluting than coal. We now know that gas can be as bad as coal for global warming.

A decade ago, new gas was the cheapest way to make electricity. In 2024 renewable energy is now the cheapest form of new energy.

Gas is no longer a transition fuel. It needs to be transitioned out, not expanded, for several reasons. The first reason is a big, fundamental one: we can’t burn all the gas fossil fuel companies want to extract and also have a safe climate – it is one or the other.

A decade ago, we thought a 2° global temperature rise would be safe. More recent climate change science clearly shows that 1.5° is the maximum warming for a safe future for humanity. This lower safe level of global warming – and rising global emissions over the last decade – means that we cannot safely expand the burning of fossilized gas.

Despite this, there are continuing claims by fossil fuel executives, mimicked by the WA Premier and government ministers, that a major expansion of gas will be an essential part of the clean energy transition. While some fossil gas will be required, this must be used in steadily declining amounts if we are to get the clean energy transition right.

Gas also needs to be phased down because it is now more expensive than renewable energy alternatives. Solar PV is almost 90% cheaper than it was a decade ago when Premier Colin Barnett first talked up WA’s gas as a transition fuel. On-shore wind electricity is 70% cheaper than a decade ago.

When gas is promoted as a transition fuel, what is it transitioning to? If it’s renewable energy, then why wait – on-shore wind and solar PV with battery storage are already the cheapest forms of electricity – cheaper than new gas.  New gas is not necessary if we invest sufficiently in renewable energy. In WA, vanishingly small amounts of gas will be required as a backup for cloudy and windless days, but the more renewable energy and batteries we invest in, the less gas we will need.

The WA Government’s own modelling has shown that our SW Grid can reach 84% renewable energy by 2030 and 96% renewable energy by 2042 with the right renewable energy and storage investments.

Just as new gas will not be required in WA’s energy system, it will not be required in most parts of the world. In direct contrast to the assertions of Woodside and the Premier, the CSIRO has shown increasing Australian gas supply to Asia could delay Asia’s shift to cleaner renewable energy and lead to higher emissions. WA is not helping Asia lower its emissions, it is keeping it hooked on fossil fuels.

The head of the International Energy Agency recently said the world is at the ‘beginning of the end’ of the fossil fuel era. If we are to achieve the goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees then “…fossil fuel demand would be driven down by 25 per cent by 2030, lowering emissions by 35 per cent…”

Expanding gas production and pushing it as a transition fuel is simply a line that fossilized gas companies with no Plan B roll out. It might have made some sense a decade ago. Today it’s disingenuous and it’s appalling to hear our political leaders parrot it.

What we need instead is leadership enabling the leapfrog of fossilized gas and speeding up the transition to zero emissions renewable energy.  Not only will it be cheaper it will give us the best chance of a safe climate.


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