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Worldwide natural gas use could grow by 50 percent by 2035

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 31st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A new report from the International Energy Agency suggests that global natural gas usage could grow by more than 50 percent by 2035. Natural gas burns far cleaner than oil or coal, releasing about half the carbon of the latter, and is generally seen as one of the cleanest of available energy alternatives.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Released this week, the report came under sharp criticism from environmental groups for charting a route to a "golden age" in the extraction and use of natural gas. Governments around the globe are barraged with new applications for exploiting gas deposits.

Only very late in the report does the agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization, say that such use could lead to a rise in world temperatures "of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius . well above the widely accepted 2 (degree Celsius) target" set by the United Nations.

The report does warn that the future of "unconventional" forms of natural gas would be heavily restricted if environmental concerns are not directly addressed. Advocacy groups are warning that the International Energy Agency should not be focusing attention on increased fossil fuel consumption at this time.

"Drilling for shale and other unconventional gas would put the world on course for catastrophic climate change - incomprehensible when we have clean energy solutions at our fingertips like wind and solar power," Tony Bosworth, with Friends of the Earth says.

"Our changing climate is already leaving millions hungry, destroying wildlife and costing our own economy billions - more fossil fuels will just make that worse."

For example, one of the most efficient but notorious of these technologies, hydrological fracturing or "fracking" requires that operators inject thousands of pounds of water and a slew of chemicals into the ground. Widespread reports have suggested that, depending on the rock formations in the area that these chemicals can poison underground aquifers.

Coupled with other technologies, there have been a glut of natural gas internationally, driven in particular by the United States. Since 2000, the production of "shale gas" has increased 12-fold in the United States, which has since begun exporting to the rest of the world.

The extraction of shale gas still poses significant risks to local environments, while it's burning and processing continues to contribute to global warming. While the IEA report outlines several "golden rules" aimed at mitigating local impacts, critics highlight that it has notably little to say about the broader ramifications of climate change.

"The entire theme of the report is to promote drilling, with more responsibility yielding higher returns in the end," Kyle Ash, a Greenpeace campaigner says. "And yet it still acknowledges that we need to better understand the impacts, develop better oversight, and implement effective regulatory regimes - this is the opposite of the precautionary approach."

A version of this story was first published by Inter Press Service news agency.

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