As a main alternative to oil from coal, and to offshore oil
drilling, I advocate the formidable Thomas Gold's theory on origin of
The attached (open in browser) should put you in touch with this.
If we convert to deep primordial gas for fuel, that will
relieve oil shortages to an extent. However, we still have to
decrease CO2 emissions. And of course manufacture of lubricants from
methane is not well developed so we'll still need oil.
I advocate NZ should supplant much coal & oil fuels by
natural gas. I also advocate decreasing NZ's greenhouse gas
To the extent that natural gas gets burnt rather than used
for synthesis of petrochemicals, the main result affecting climate is
in the first instance carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
The greenhouse potency of methane (the main component of NG)
is a couple doz times that of CO2, per mole.
Some complexities arise.
1 If NG is distributed to substitute for coal, it is
important to minimise leaks. Coal is debited with more CO2 per
calorie (estimated 40 - 70% extra). Aside from any need to review
that estimate, more important in many cases will be leaks of NG.
Some leaks are fire/explosion hazards, especially in any confined
space, but they all constitute some challenge to climate. Methane
has been building much faster than CO2 in the air lately, and it is
not just ruminants that are to blame.
2 Our govt has been taking seriously the idea that
our ruminants cause about as much greenhouse acceleration as our
fuel-burning. Gene-jockeys are even getting funding for ludicrous
attempts to create sheep that emit far less methane. John Cleese
would admire that furphy - but that's the quality of GM fantasy
expanded by The Black Suit Gang at Massey U, while shutting down
proper ag ed. And the Aussies are not embarrassed about the
comparable emissions from termites which do us no good while sheep do
Meanwhile, sensible policies to curtail greenhouse effects
3 Does extraction of NG decrease the flux of
methane up thru the surface? Gold says most of that natural flux is
mud volcanoes - and very impressive I'm sure they are; I'd like to
see one from a suitable distance. I doubt the other sources of
methane can be accurately measured, but I can imagine an outside
chance that extracting deep methane might decrease spontaneous
emergence, compensating to some extent for the CO2 produced by
burning the mined methane. (Even if this notion gets rejected after
due examination, the policy of deep drilling will still be a very
4 The flux of CO2 from geothermal power stations is
comparable to that from similar-MWe gas-burning stations. As for
methane that comes up in some geothermal brines - it hasn't been
fully assessed, as far as I know.
5 Clouds and water vapour are, as Lindzen points
out, more important factors in climate than CO2. It does NOT
follow that CO2 should be ignored as Lindzen illogically suggests on
behalf of the Business Roundtable. In any case the immediate harm
from excessive fuel use is far too great - especially in China. (
China might even clean up somewhat, if they will convert from coal to
I maintain offshore drilling should be ceased promptly, and
onshore deep drilling begun urgently in Taranaki. If that pays off
(and it sure looks more prospective than the Sildjan Shield!) then we
should drill near Christchurch.
I do not, of course, want any more gas-fired power stations.
My hope is that we can deploy CNG far more thoroughly than ever
anywhere. The advantages are well proven.
The threat of further blowouts in the Santa Barbara channel
led directly to the USA statute creating the EIR system etc. But we
continue to create that same type of hazard offshore, when there is
no justification for any more offshore drilling.