For those of you who aren’t up with the lingo: When we burn fossil Fuels (coal, oil and gas) to get energy, we release carbon dioxide. This is bad because it adds to the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere and more carbon dioxide traps more heat, which melts ice caps, causes droughts etc.
So we need to “transition” away from using fossil fuels. We can’t do it overnight, for sure, but if we had begun in, oh 1989, we might almost be completely done by now; Instead, the amount of energy we get from fossil fuels has stubbornly stayed at over 80% since then – all the solar panels, wind farms have been additional, rather than substitutive.
Now, those who own and profit from natural gas like to point out that at the point of burning, gas releases about half as much carbon dioxide as coal (they don’t talk about all the leakage of methane and so on BEFORE the point of combustion). So, they say, natural gas is a “bridging fuel” until we have enough renewables. Natural gas, they say, will help with the “transition.”
This MIGHT have been true thirty years ago. Now, not so much, as people like Professor Kevin Anderson and Dr John Broderick have pointed out (see here). We need to move faster – much faster – than the soothing language of “bridging” and “transition” suggest.
I have never seen coal trying to claim to be a transition fuel (for obvious reasons).
World Coal, Vol 31 no. 2 has an editorial. And in it, these priceless words
“From a broad perspective of recent events, this latest European energy crisis can be viewed as a microcosm of fthe global energy transition at large. The switch from one energy source to another, be it fossil fuels to renewables or Russian pipeline gas to US LNG, cannot be achieved overnight: a transition period is essential. This once again illustrates coal’s value as a transition fuel. Almost inevitiably, one day other sources of energy, likely renewable, will take over the task of meeting the world’s ever increasing demands for energy from fossil fuels. However, today is not that day.”
I know I should say something about Gramsci, and the way incumbents try to capture and de-fang contestation of their hegemony, but right now, I just need to lie down in a dark corner with a wet flannel on my face and have a quiet cathartic cry.