Fossil fuel energy provides the majority of our global primary supply. In 2008 we sourced 27% from coal, 33.2% from oil and 21.1% from gas. The remaining supply came from 10% combustible renewables and waste, 5.8% nuclear, 2.2% hydroelectricity and just 0.7% from all other sources including large scale wind, solar, geothermal, according to the International Energy Agency.

Maintaining the environmental integrity of the planet requires that the energy industry move to a clean energy mix. This transition will not happen without consideration for the reality of available energy resources and cost. The January 2011 Economist online debate, entitled “This house believes natural gas will do more than renewables to limit the world’s carbon emissions”, began with overwhelming 80% against the motion. At its conclusion, the audience was divided with just 51% against.

As a mechanical engineer with an interest in environmental integrity and energy systems, presently studying economics and sustainability, I think that the lower cost and lower carbon emissions of gas are reason to grow the gas industry. In the long term, I think we must stop using fossil fuels, including gas, because they pollute and because they are a finite resource. That means we have to drive investment in renewables now. In the short term, I agree that increasing gas use will reduce global pollution and limit climate change, because it will mean we can leave more of the dirtier coal and oil in the ground.