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Climate warning on gas ‘golden age’

The use of gas could rise by more than half to account for a quarter of the world’s growing energy demand by 2035, according to the International Energy Agency.

But the international organisation warned that shifting to gas from other fossil fuels would not be sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rises to no more than 2C.

IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said an expansion of natural gas could muscle out low-carbon alternatives such as nuclear or renewables and did not provide a “panacea” to climate change.

The IEA has published a report which outlines a possible “golden age of gas” in which the fossil fuel overtakes coal as an energy source by 2030 and makes up 25% of the world energy mix by 2035.

According to the study, replacing other fossil fuels with gas can diversify energy supplies, making them more secure, as well as reduce carbon emissions as gas is cleaner than energy sources such as coal.

The report said the world has 120 years of conventional sources of gas at current levels of global consumption.

In total, there are some 250 years of gas remaining, including unconventional sources of the fuel such as “shale gas” extracted through hydraulic fracturing of rock in a process known as “fracking”.

Unconventional gas already makes up 60 per cent of the US’s gas supplies, and while MPs said recently there was unlikely to be a “shale gas revolution” in the UK, fracking has begun at one site.

However, the scheme, near Blackpool, Lancashire, had to be halted after two small earthquakes were recorded in the area, prompting concerns the process was causing tremors.

The study said the use of fracking had raised serious environmental concerns and estimates suggested that shale gas produced slightly higher “well to burner” emissions than its conventional counterpart.

But while conventional gas would continue to make up the majority of global production, unconventional sources would become increasingly important.

The report said that globally, gas was a particularly attractive fuel for regions such as China and India which are urbanising and looking to satisfy rapid growth in energy demand.

At the launch of the report, Mr Tanaka said: “We have seen remarkable developments in natural gas in recent months.

“There is strong potential for gas to take on a larger role, but also for the global gas market to become more diversified and therefore improve energy security.”

But he said: “While natural gas is the ‘cleanest’ fossil fuel, it is still a fossil fuel.

“Its increased use could muscle out low-carbon fuels, such as renewables and nuclear – particularly in the wake of the incident at Fukushima and the likelihood of a reduced role for nuclear in some countries.

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