What has happened to the former New Zealand Minister of Climate Change Issues, the hon Dr Nick Smith? In March he resigned from all his ministerial offices when his conflict of interest in the accident compensation case of his National-insider friend Brownyn Pullar became public.
Well Nick Smith is back in the public spotlight and is promoting the extraction of unconventional gas via hydraulic fracturing.
Smith has written an op-ed in the New Zealand Herald Fracking the sensible choice for NZ.
Fracking technologies are underpinning an energy revolution in the United States. Huge unconventional shale gas resources in Louisiana and Pennsylvania are coming on stream, enabling gas to replace coal-fired electricity generation. Gas emits one-third the greenhouse gas emissions of coal.
If we do not find new natural gas resources in the next decade, energy prices will rise and we will inevitably burn more coal. New Zealand must be open to responsibly using fracking to access our unconventional gas resources.
So, according to Smith, from a global warming perspective, unconventional gas is implicitly okay as its emits one-third the greenhouse gas emissions of coal.
Smith concludes that NZ needs;
a strong economy and a clean environment. That will only be possible if we take a rational and science-based approach to our natural resources and risk management.
But promoting unconventional gas development is not the climate science based approach.
Thats abundantly clear from James Hansen's talks in New Zealand in 2011. Did Dr Smith miss these?
Kharecha and Hansen, in their 2008 paper Implications of "peak oil" for atmospheric CO2 and climate. Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 22, GB3012, doi:10.1029/2007GB003142, have clearly told us that we can only keep carbon dioxide concentrations from exceeding about 450 ppm by 2100, if emissions from coal, unconventional fossil fuels, and land use are constrained.
The specific issue of whether a transition to conventional natural gas will actually reduce future greenhouse gas emissions is dealt with in Myhrvold and Caldeira (2012) Greenhouse gases, climate change and the transition from coal to low-carbon electricity.
The Carnegie Institute explains Caldeira and Myhrvold's conclusion; Only the lowest CO2 emitting technologies can avoid a hot end-of-century.
..in the case of natural gas—increasingly the power industry’s fuel of choice, because gas reserves have been growing and prices have been falling—the study finds that warming would continue even if over the next 40 years every coal-fired power plant in the world were replaced with a gas-fueled plant.
As Joe Romm says natural gas is a bridge to nowhere