Exxon, Shell Censured for Claiming Natural Gas Is 'Cleanest' Fossil Fuel
By Farron Cousins
For many years, a standard talking point from the fossil fuel industry and those who speak on the industry's behalf has been that natural gas is a cleaner alternative to conventional energy sources like coal and oil. This talking point is at least partially responsible for many people—including former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz—believing that natural gas can act as a "bridge fuel" in the eventual shift from coal and oil to renewable sources of energy.
But the truth is a lot more complicated than a talking point, something which a Dutch advertising watchdog has recognized as it takes two fossil fuel companies to task over misleading ads about natural gas being the "cleanest of all fossil fuels."
At first glance, natural gas does appear to be "cleaner" due to the simple fact that it does not release as much carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned as coal. However, when you account for the release of methane (a much more potent but shorter-lived greenhouse gas) from burning natural gas—a number which is frequently underreported—its climate impact goes through the roof, revealing a fuel source roughly equal in total emissions to other fossil fuel sources.
Natural Gas Is Not the Answer, New Study Finds https://t.co/30kOMA8NKT @Connect4Climate @ClimateDesk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1498165507.0
To complicate the issue further, when natural gas is extracted via the horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the overall environmental impact can actually exceed that of fuel sources such as coal and oil.
When all of these factors are taken into account, it becomes clear that natural gas is not the wonder fuel that the industry and its cheerleaders would have us believe.
The big question then becomes how should society handle this kind of spin and misinformation from industry? In Europe, they've decided to censure the dirty energy companies that are trying to convince the public that natural gas is a cleaner alternative to coal and oil.
According to reports, an advertising standards board in the Netherlands will formally censure Exxon and Shell, as part-owners of a Dutch petroleum company, for advertising the claim that natural gas is "the cleanest of all fossil fuels." The ad campaign featuring this claim ran earlier this year. Just two months ago, the agency also admonished Statoil for making the claim that natural gas was a "low emissions fuel" and for calling it "clean energy."
As The Guardian reported:
"The Dutch watchdog waived punitive action against the NAM company, which is part-owned by Shell and Exxon, in that light.
Paul de Clerk of Friends of the Earth Europe, which co-filed the complaint with Milieudefensie, said: 'This clear ruling by the advertisement standards board is of great importance. Time after time we see how oil and gas companies are misleading citizens and politicians.
'They want us to believe that gas is clean and they support the transition to renewable energy. Behind the screens we see how the same companies lobby against this transition. To prevent catastrophic climate change we need to end the dependency on all fossil fuels—including gas.'"
While the move by the Dutch advertising watchdog is a great step forward, the U.S. is still embracing the backwards policy of believing that natural gas is the fuel of the future, with the Trump administration pushing world leaders at a recent G20 meeting to buy American natural gas by calling it "clean technology" and insinuating it's a more stable source than Russian gas.
The Dutch regulators understand that natural gas is not clean, it is not revolutionary, and it certainly is not a "bridge fuel." If anything, the constant claims that natural gas could be cleaner are helping to prevent areas of the world from making the switch to renewable sources of energy, even as that sector continues to show phenomenal growth.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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