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SOURCE: Inside Climate News

DATE: December 3, 2019

SNIP: A surge in natural gas has helped drive down coal burning across the United States and Europe, but it isn’t displacing other fossil fuels on a global scale. Instead, booming gas use is fueling the global growth in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford University and other institutions.

In fact, natural gas use is growing so fast, its carbon dioxide emissions over the past six years actually eclipsed the decline in emissions from the falling use of coal, the researchers found.

The findings of the study, published Tuesday, support those from other recent studies that found the world is continuing to rely on fossil fuels—including coal—to meet growing energy demand, even as renewable energy sees soaring growth.

“Globally, most of the new natural gas being used isn’t displacing coal, it’s providing new energy. That’s the key interaction, and that’s true for renewables even,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and the report’s lead author.

Supporters often refer to natural gas as a “bridge fuel” between higher-emitting fossil fuels and renewable energy, but some industry executives have instead begun calling it a “forever fuel”—one they see continuing to grow for decades to come.

Globally, natural gas is the fastest growing fossil fuel.

One of the biggest developments has been a rapidly expanding market for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, an energy-intensive product that allows energy companies to ship gas overseas. Australia has tripled its LNG exports since 2013, the report says, and is now the largest exporter. The U.S. recently opened five new LNG terminals and has been pushing to expand exports further. Several countries opened new import facilities to buy that gas last year in Asia and the Americas. This booming market is sending down gas prices in many developing countries, driving new demand.

[A]ll of this new infrastructure—an LNG terminal can cost billions of dollars to build—will make it far more difficult to cut emissions years from now, when investors will be expecting returns from these projects.