Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Exxon, Shell Censured for Claiming Natural Gas Is 'Cleanest' Fossil Fuel

Popular
Shutterstock

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.

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A grizzly bear sow with cub in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Danita Delimont / Gallo Images / Getty Images Plus

Grizzly bears in Wyoming and Idaho won't be subject to a trophy hunt thanks to a federal court decision Wednesday upholding endangered species protections for these iconic animals.

Read More Show Less
Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less

Trending

About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less