Opinion: Gas Crisis Shows Why We Must Stop Demonizing Fossil Fuels

The engineering challenges around renewables require a need to be realistic while waiting for the green transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Merryn Somerset Webb, Financial Times
Opinion: Gas Crisis Shows Why We Must Stop Demonizing Fossil Fuels

Out of use signs on fuel pumps at BP petrol station amid petrol and diesel fuel shortages in Britain on Sept. 26, 2021. (Source: Jevanto Productions / Shutterstock.com)

Earlier this week the online U.K. supermarket Ocado told its customers that it had “limited ability” to deliver ice cream to them. Why? Because the price of natural gas has soared. That has caused two of the U.K.’s big industrial fertilizer plants to shut down, as natural gas is the feedstock for ammonia, which is used to make fertilizer. Since CO₂ is captured from ammonia production, this has hit the supply of CO₂ in the U.K. And that has led to a cut in the supply of dry ice that supermarkets use to keep food cool in their delivery vans. So, no ice cream.

We can live without ice cream. But what of the other effects? Abattoirs are short of the gas they need to stun animals, hospitals might not have the CO₂ they need for minor surgeries, and the nuclear industry is low on the gas they need for cooling. These things really matter. This mini-crisis has been fairly quickly resolved, for now at least: the taxpayer is stepping in to subsidize a fertilizer factory for three weeks.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry. You should. This incident serves as a timely reminder of just how reliant we are on fossil fuels. Despite our optimistic enthusiasm for wind and solar power, one way or another oil and gas use is shot through every part of our economic and social lives. That will be the case for many decades to come.

Already have an account? Log In

Subscribe now to get unmatched and complete coverage of the Energy industry’s entire landscape!

View our subscription options
  • Access to site wide content
  • Access to our proprietary databases
  • Watch exclusive videos with energy executives
  • Unlimited access to an extensive library of Playbooks, Techbooks, Yearbooks, supplements, and special reports
  • Newly Added! Access to Rextag's Energy Datalink, containing extensive GIS databases of energy assets, production records, processing capacities, physical locations, planned projects, acquisition records, and much more.