Gas Is the Bridge We NeedBy Warren Levy | Thu, 09/22/2022 - 09:00
In Tijuana, a bridge allows passengers to walk across the border to the US without leaving the airport. Close to Toronto, where I was born, the Rainbow International Bridge spans the Niagara River between Canada and the US just upstream from the mighty falls. Bridges provide a link, allowing us to bypass obstacles and differences. They facilitate economic and personal ties between one side and the other. In places where bridges are absent — like the Darien Gap, which effectively blocks all land access to the border between Panama and Colombia, strife and conflict is often allowed to reign supreme.
But what if a bridge, carefully built to endure the elements, can only be used by a specific set of people, say, a particular class or nationality? Does it not become a barrier instead of a link? Are these not ideas that need to be changed?
For some time, it has been clear that humans are and have been for some time emitting more into the atmosphere and water than the Earth can absorb. The world simply cannot wait to make changes that will link the world of today with the future we want. What we need is a bridge. Things are getting far too polluted and if we fail to implement changes faster, the world population will face challenges that may be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. But if we are not careful about what bridge we choose to build and how we choose to build it, we could end up building new barriers. What we need is a bridge built out of gas.
Increased awareness of the critical role renewable energies can have in reducing emissions has led some sectors to demand that we invest only in them, disregarding nonrenewable sources. For example, in Colombia, the recently elected president promised to eliminate all fossil fuel investment and threatened to ban drilling during his campaign. Unfortunately, oil represents 12 percent of Colombia’s GDP; eliminating related activities would devastate the country’s economy and cause massive social challenges.
Policies like the above are inconvenient bridges. To leap over the massive gap between current energy demand and the availability of cleaner energies to meet a society’s needs is extremely challenging. The key challenge is that richer societies and people are more capable of making this leap. Some economies might successfully cross it but others with less capacity and resources will inevitably fall into the gap. Millions, if not billions, could be left behind; the social and economic impact would be dire.
I firmly believe the bridge we need is gas.
Natural gas is, at the moment, the world’s best chance to transition to a less polluting future without having to sacrifice the well-being of the most vulnerable populations. For starters, gas is readily available, reliable, cost-effective, efficient at generating power and heat, and much less polluting than other fossil fuels. And perhaps most importantly, this bridge could allow other technologies to mature, thus enabling more people to cross safely to the greener future we all hope for.
Leading thinkers worldwide are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that certain fossil fuels are required for the world to function. Elon Musk, while recently speaking at a conference in Norway, stated that the world still needs to use oil and gas or “civilization will crumble.” What is best for the world is to increase its focus on natural gas and reduce dependence on coal and heavier forms of hydrocarbons. This does not mean we should diverge our efforts from accelerating the use and adoption of even cleaner fuels, which would improve efficiency to reduce overall cost and consumption and foster more sustainable cities and lifestyles, but rather make choices that ensure that the energy transition includes every part of the world and every sector of society.
Energy efficiency initiatives in Mexico have reduced electricity losses from 2010-2020 by 5 percent, despite the inefficiency of its energy grid as compared to other countries — in some areas, grid losses exceed 25 percent. The lack of reliable access to gas throughout southern and southeastern Mexico has led to large populations and even small businesses burning wood to obtain fuel.
Sustainability, by its very definition, means meeting our needs without compromising the future generation’s ability to meet their own. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources for society to flourish. Natural gas has unique environmental and economic benefits; it reduces emissions and is more cost-effective than other alternatives. Gas is the only bridge that will take us to a point where people will not have to choose between what is right and what they can afford.