Natural Gas Is Here to Stay

Nehemia Shtrasler
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A view of the platform of the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea from Caesarea in 2019.
Nehemia Shtrasler

The enormous fire that ran rot last week in the Jerusalem Hills is part of a series of terrible fires, exceptional in their force, that have recently hit many countries. The sizzling summer is exacting a price in every corner of the globe, and is a result of global warming that is also reflected in severe droughts and exceptional flooding.

Global warming began in the 19th century as a result of the Industrial Revolution, which greatly increased the use of coal, crude oil and diesel fuel. When these materials are burned they emit greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere, which create an insulation layer and cause exceptional warming of the Earth.

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At the Paris Convention, six years ago, Israel promised to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases in four main areas: energy, transportation, agriculture and industry. It has met its commitment only in the area of energy. That happened thanks to the discovery of (much-maligned) natural gas, which made it possible to convert power stations from the use of coal, diesel fuel and crude oil for fuel to natural gas, which emits far less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The truth is that we were even ahead of schedule. Instead of reaching the target in 2030, we reached it in 2020. On the other hand, in transportation, agriculture and manufacturing we failed. On these areas we are very far from the target.

All that has made no impression on opponents of natural gas, who continue to attack its use. They even forget to mention that the transition to natural gas reduced air pollution by 70 percent, so that at present the air we breathe contains far less sulfur and nitrogen oxides, which each year saves hundreds of people from pulmonary diseases that end in death.

Opponents of natural gas argue that it is the main source of emissions of methane, another greenhouse gas. But in fact, 78 percent of the methane that rises into the atmosphere comes from the decomposition of waste buried in landfills. Agriculture accounts for 12 percent, mainly from cows, 9 percent from wastewater treatment and only 1 percent from offshore natural gas platforms and power stations, as part of the production process. But still, the opponents of natural gas speak only about methane.

They say that we have to make the transition to renewable energy, and take an example from Europe, but that is misleading. In Europe there are numerous hydroelectric power stations. In Norway and Albania, for example, electricity is produced from water turbines. We, on the other hand, have no mighty rivers, but only the sun, production from which is limited. Energy can be produced from the sun only for a few hours during the day, not at night and not during gray winter days.

We should also be aware that in order to store solar energy (for use at night) we would have to use thousands of enormous batteries made from lithium, a harmful substance that is dangerous to the environment and to human beings.

There is also the issue of a shortage of land. In order to obtain 30 percent of our energy from the sun (the target for 2030), we will have to expropriate huge swathes of land from its owners and install hundreds of thousands of solar panels, alongside thousands of polluting batteries. And if we want to exceed 30 percent, we will have to devour the few open areas that will remain, wreaking great harm to plant an animal life, and that is an ecological price that is far too dear.

Here’s another example: Within a decade we will need an additional 7,000 megawatts of electricity, in order to keep up with demand. To generate it in power stations fueled by natural gas, we would need an additional 123 acres for the new plants. The same amount of electricity would require about 17,300 acres of solar panels to produce. So anyone who talks about a transition to 50 percent solar energy (and the extremists are talking about 80 percent) is talking about an impossible standard.

If we only reach 30 percent solar energy and 70 percent natural gas by 2030 that’s a sufficiently ambitious target. If we do get there, we will be doing our part for the important war against global warming.

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