Renewable Gas – Review
Renewable Gas: The Transition to Low Carbon Energy Fuels, by Jo Abbess, September 2015. Palgrave Macmillan, 296 pages, ISBN 978-113744-179-9. RRP £68.00 (hardcover, also available as e-book)
I am glad the request to write this review meant that I read a book which I might otherwise have missed. However, reading it has left me with one minor puzzle: I am not sure for whom Jo Abbess has written this book. It contains a considerable amount of technical information and argument which may deter the general reader but be nothing new to the technological and scientific communities. But all sides of the discussion and debate about how we source our energy needs now and into the future will undoubtedly benefit from this book’s very comprehensive and detailed analysis of the pros and cons of renewable gas as a major contributor to the solution.
The author defines ‘Renewable Gas’ as ‘a range of low net carbon emissions gas energy fuels’ (page 2). It is a sustainable natural gas, a biogas that has been produced to achieve a similar quality to fossil natural gas. Jo Abbess takes very seriously the reality of Peak Oil and makes the point that there is a parallel reality of Peak Gas and these twin realities will inevitably mean a transition period as world energy supplies are forced to move from fossil fuels to renewables. Like all beautiful theories, her thesis is very simple. Surplus energy generated at times of low demand may be used to produce Renewable Gas which may then be stored (in ways not possible for electricity) and distributed via existing infrastructure for Natural Gas. Thus it will be possible to sustain energy supplies even as fossil fuels decline.
Jo takes as axiomatic the inevitability of climate change and the consequent necessity of reducing carbon emissions. Jo also makes the point that development and construction times for nuclear power generating plants are too long for nuclear to be ready in time for the crunch points that we shall soon face as the production of energy from fossil fuels declines. She then explores the implications of this for a wide-range of energy-related factors including the challenge to investors to invest in the development of technologies to make the production of Renewable Gas efficient and practicable. Jo then offers an academically robust, scientifically sound and economically realistic defence of the use of Renewable Gas as the vital bridging source when the twin drivers of climate change and peak extraction of fossil fuels place increasing demands on the need to find alternative sources for the world’s energy.
The fact is, as a general reader, I learnt a considerable amount about the wealth of ways in which Renewable Gas can be manufactured and distributed to provide such a vital ‘bridging’ energy source. Reading ‘Renewable Gas’ has considerably enhanced my armoury of defences and challenges to offer against those who still deny the reality of climate change and still invest in energy sources that will ultimately destroy us and our planet if they are not checked and eventually replaced by renewable alternatives. Indeed, I would be surprised if climate change sceptics will even bother to read this book. But that would be both a shame and very short-sighted on their part as Abbess convinced me that the employment of Renewable Gas could and should be a significant contributor and economically important in the transition from dependence on fossil fuels to reliance on renewable energy resources. Jo examines in considerable detail the evidence of predictions of future fossil fuel based energy reserves and the implications for investments and fuel prices.
Hard-nosed Free Market Capitalists who seem to think that Climate Change and Peak Fuel are a myth devised by left-wing idealists to overthrow Capitalism would do well to educate themselves about the economic benefits of Renewable Gas so clearly explained and justified in this important book. But I wonder if Abbess will succeed in convincing the greedier energy suppliers and distribution companies as I suspect only a return of these to public ownership will enable renewables to be given the chance they deserve on the scale that Abbess envisages.
Jo’s vision is global. She envisages that ‘the ambitions of countries could align if a gas-and-power strategy is pursued, and this could enable improved international relations going forward’, (page 177). In its advocacy of the urgent need to develop Renewable Gas as a way of assisting countries to achieve their carbon reduction targets this is an important and timely book. It is not an easy read for the more general reader such as me but I nevertheless found it to be an important motivator in my own commitment to campaign for renewable energy. Green Christians owe it to themselves and to the Church to be as informed as possible about the implications of climate change and the loss of fossil fuels in order that we may engage in the debate and speak with integrity and conviction. ‘Renewable Gas’ will enable us to do precisely that and we are in the debt of scientific writers like Jo Abbess for their willingness to offer solutions to the reality of fuel insecurity: her thesis offers hope.
The Rev’d Canon Donald C Macdonald
16th September 2015