The use of gas in transportation does not solve climate change or air pollution

The use of gas in transportation does not solve climate change or air pollution

A European report ensures that the gas does not present any significant advantage in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or improving air quality.

According to the report 'CNG and LNG for vehicles and ships: the facts', published by the European Transport and Environment (T&E) network, of which Ecologists in Action, Eco-Union and PTP are part, using natural gas in transport is as bad for the climate as using gasoline, diesel or conventional marine fuels. In relation to air quality, research shows that burning gas in cars generates as much pollution as burning gasoline. With regard to diesel vehicles, the advantage in terms of air quality is minimal and may disappear as soon as the new requirements already planned are implemented. For T&E, Ecologistas en Acción, Eco-Unión and PTP, public administrations must accept that fossil gas cannot help to clean up the transport sector, so gas should be taxed with the same taxes as diesel and fuel. gasoline.

When the effects of methane leakage (a gas with a warming potential 86 times greater than that of CO2 in the first 20 years of life), the supposed climatic advantages of natural gas over oil are not such. In the case of passenger cars, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from natural gas can be between a maximum of 106% and a minimum of 93% in relation to diesel. In trucks, GHG emissions in the case of using natural gas are also quite similar, ranging between 5% higher and 2% lower when compared to the best latest generation trucks that use fossil fuels. In ships, the impact of using Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is very close to that of Marine Diesel, but the exact figures are highly dependent on the leakage of methane in the engine and in the extraction process. Recent research shows that actual methane leakage along the entire supply chain is actually 60% higher than has been estimated to date. These data demolish the argument of natural gas as “clean” or “transitional” fuels towards renewables on which the great promotion of which it is the subject is based.

The transport sector, led by car manufacturers, is engaged in an aggressive campaign to promote gas as the fuel of the future. And this is translating into a growing market share. This impulse could not be explained without the determined support of the public administrations, which grant this consideration of "clean fuel" to gas, translated into tax advantages. In Spain, gas is taxed 88% lower than diesel and 91.4% lower than gasoline. This situation of tax advantage is general throughout Europe and in some countries with high sales of vehicles with compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG), fossil gas enjoys even lower taxes. Italy, for example, consumes 60% of the methane used in European transport and its sales of CNG vehicles represent 68%. If LNG had similar taxes to diesel, there would be no business model for LNG trucks. The Spanish Government should therefore stop subsidizing the purchase of gas vehicles. Likewise, the municipal administrations must withdraw the consideration of a clean vehicle when establishing criteria for access to city centers or for the renewal of municipal services vehicles.

Gas-powered cars, trucks and ships do not have benefits for the climate and are a distraction from achieving the real objective, which is a transport model with zero emissions, based on cities where public transport is prioritized and on the promotion of walking and cycling. Governments must resist the gas lobby onslaught and stop wasting scarce public resources on gas infrastructure and tax benefits for fossil gas. The report shows how gas is not a solution either to face the problem of air quality in cities.

Gas passenger cars - including so-called renewable gas - produce as much pollution as gasoline cars and very little less than those diesel vehicles that actually comply with EU standards. In trucks, the use of LNG can increase NOx emissions, depending on the type of engine, and can have significantly higher particulate matter emissions than diesel trucks. For ships, the use of LNG has a clear benefit compared to heavy fuel oil (HFO), although NOx post-treatment systems and additional desulfurization of current marine fuels could produce similar results. On the highway, the sulfur content standards for gasoline and diesel are 100 times more demanding than for marine fuels in the Sulfur Emission Control zones (SECA, in its acronym in English). Thus, marine fuels can be further desulfurized to produce the same low level of pollution at sea as on land, without the need to replace thousands of ships and their bunkering infrastructure to run on LNG. .

In its eagerness to dress in green, the gas sector is increasingly showing the business card of the so-called “renewable gas”, a totum revolutum that includes everything from biogas to gas from renewable electricity. Under this apparently ecological profile, the gas lobby seeks to demand public support for gas infrastructures (transport networks, warehouses, etc.) that are currently very socially questioned. Although there is a percentage of biomethane that could be produced in a sustainable way from waste, the report points out that the maximum possible potential and in the best of cases in which everything was dedicated to transport, would not reach 10%. This is a very limited potential, in addition to the problem of competition with other uses that also require a decarbonization process and that still use gas - residential, heating and electricity - where, at least, it is not necessary to invest in new infrastructure. For its part, renewable gas based on electricity (conversion of surplus renewable electricity into hydrogen and later into methane to inject it as storage in the grid) is very energy intensive and very expensive to produce, according to the report's findings.

In conclusion, for T&E, Ecologistas en Acción, Eco-Unión and PTP, the idea that transportation can be decarbonized with renewable gas is a chimera. Governments must abandon the promotion of this fuel immediately if the objectives of the Paris Agreement are to be met.

Full report:

More information:

Samuel Martín-Sosa (head of International Ecologists in Action): 686 961 486
Isabell Buschel (Transport and Environment spokesperson) 658 391 171

Video: Climate Change and Air Pollution (October 2020).