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Will Upgrading Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Speed Up The Path To Net Zero Emission?


Countries around the world have committed to net-zero by 2050. The advanced economies have now strengthened their efforts to achieve their 2030 target by halving their emissions.

What is net-zero emission?

It is achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. It is like a scale; producing greenhouse gases tips the scale, and we want to balance out that scale by not emitting greenhouse gases in any given year.

Getting to net-zero emission does not mean we cannot emit GHG any longer. It only indicates the use of processes that offset greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

Yet, many experts consider that a net-zero target is futile if no concrete action is made. The lion’s share of emissions needs to be significantly reduced this decade if we want to be on target. Definitely, a net-zero target is not compatible with new coal or gas. Hence, all gas and coal extractions should be abandoned.

The road to net-zero emission – possible or not?

Recently, the International Energy Agency released the Global Hydrogen Review 2021. A report on this review issued a call on world leaders to hasten their investment in hydrogen projects to support the clean energy transition.

Developing cost-effective and scalable long-duration storage that can support a 24-hour supply of power from renewable sources is still ongoing. Therefore, fossil fuels remain significant in the diverse energy sources providing reliable energy to the power grids and various industries.

In a webinar at Columbia University, Maarten Wetselaar, Director of Gas, Renewables, and Energy Solutions of Royal Dutch Shell said that we still need oil and gas to make things go around and are still needed in the existing energy system. 

However, he stressed the importance of governments investing in green hydrogen in the future. Thus, if a net-zero emission target is to be achieved, governments and industries need to be on board with the goal now. 

The US Department of Energy recently revealed that 95 percent of the nation’s hydrogen comes from natural gas. Therefore, hydrogen from clean-powered electrolyzers can act as backbone duel when making the transition. Unfortunately, this isn’t true for most of the world. There is insufficient infrastructure and supply of green hydrogen for production.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is ramping up its R&D for green hydrogen and carbon capture. Among the priority research areas for green hydrogen are cargo ships, heavy-duty trucks, and fuel industries, of which decarbonization is complex and challenging.

Just this month, the US Senate passed a whopping $1 trillion infrastructure bill to revamp the country’s infrastructure and invest in innovative climate change initiatives.

Part of the approved budget would fund the upgrading of the nation’s electricity, purchase of clean ferries and buses, construction of EV charging stations, and removal of lead pipes. Columbia Univer’s Center on Global Energy Policy also calls for the US natural gas pipeline system to shift from natural gas to green fuel. 

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