Over 11 leading Israeli scientists have signed a letter to their nation’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, to go against the countries decision to construct a new network of natural gas power plants instead of putting a greater emphasis on using more renewable energy.
Recent reports suggest that natural gas is similar to coal with respect to the effect it has on global warming, the letter stated which was signed by 112 experts in the topic.
The scientists believe that creating more new gas fired power plants locks the technology in for decades and that the old views on gas power plants are not necessarily true and it is not as clean as once thought. This means that if the gas plants get the go ahead, Israel will potentially have a new fleet of power plants which are equally as bad as coal fired plants.
The letter came in response to the Energy Ministry announcing that the end of the coal era for Israel was being brought forward from 2030 to 2025.
A recent discovery of vast natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea has made using natural gas plants more appealing for Israel. The energy ministry plans that by the year 2030 about 80% of the nation’s energy demand will be provided by natural gas power plants and 17% being generated from renewable sources. At this moment in time, only around 6% of the nation’s electricity is generated from renewable sources, mainly solar power.
Back in 2017, the Israeli government approved for the construction of 16 new gas fired power plants.
The letter to the energy minister included signatures from Israel Prize winners Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute and Tel Aviv University’s Gedeon Dagan, chair of Tel Aviv University’s Public Policy Department, Nobel laureate Robert Aumann of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and a veteran environmental activist.
The letter begins with appreciating that natural gas is a cleaner fuel than the currently used coal and that the scientists welcome reducing the amount of coal, oil and kerosene being used. However, it then goes on to say that it would be a better transition if the government planned on going directly to renewable options and not using gas fired power plants. It states that gas is still a fossil fuel and that burning it does release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In addition, recent research papers have reported back that considerable emissions are a result of using natural gas.
When methane is released into the atmosphere it has a short term effect which is 84 times greater than the equivalent mass of carbon dioxide. This statistic is 4 times greater than previous predictions.
Another problem with methane is that during the production, refining and delivering of the gas, much greater volumes of it are released into the atmosphere due to poor techniques and leaks in the system.
Therefore, the fact that methane is more damaging than initially thought and that more of it escapes into the atmosphere than what was originally thought shows how damaging this gas can be to the planet. The effect can be comparable of using a coal power plant.
The letter put into context the effect of a natural gas plant, saying that it is comparable to a diesel bus which is on a 20 million km drive.
The letter also warns of the wider economic effects in investing in natural gas power plants as prices for renewable energy forms are currently rapidly falling and look like they will continue to do so.
The scientists are adamant that the Israeli government needs to reconsider their decision to introduce more natural gas power plants and use renewable options due to the environmental, economic and social benefits of it. The scientists fear that the government has not undertaken an in-depth analysis of its new policy and will cause damaging long term climate effects.