Fossil Gas FAQ

We've put together answers to your most frequently asked questions about gas.

On this page …
  1. How polluting is fossil gas?
  2. Is it cheaper to go electric?
  3. How will going electric reduce emissions?
  4. Why more renewable energy means we need LESS fossil gas?
  5. What are the health effects of burning gas in the home?
  6. What about industrial applications where gas is more difficult to substitute?
  7. Why can’t we just pump green hydrogen into the existing network?

1. How polluting is fossil gas?

Burning fossil gas is responsible for 17% of Victoria’s climate pollution.

The primary component of fossil gas is methane which is the main cause of global heating after carbon dioxide. While most gas turns into carbon dioxide when it is burned, the gas industry leaks methane into the atmosphere through its whole supply chain – from gas mining fields to the transmission and distribution pipelines.

Gas can be as damaging for our climate as coal for the climate if methane leakage is higher than 3.2%.1 Current evidence suggests that leakage in Australia would be far higher than this, potentially making gas an even bigger climate wrecker than coal!

Despite these facts, the gas industry has shamelessly tried to convince the public that their product is not harmful or polluting. But the truth is starting to catch up with them, and the advertising regulator has ruled that it is misleading to call gas “cleaner and greener” than other energy sources.

Regulator rules it is misleading to claim gas is ‘cleaner and greener’

Renew Economy

Advertising regulator Ads Standards has ruled that it is misleading to call gas ‘cleaner and greener’ than other energy sources.

 

2. Is it cheaper to go electric?

Using efficient electric appliances such as reverse cycle air conditioners is now a cheaper alternative to gas heating. The difference in running costs is even greater for those households with solar panels.2

In fact, modelling in the Victorian government’s Gas Substitution Roadmap shows Victorian homes can save up to $1,250 per year if they go all-electric. Read more about the Gas Substitution Roadmap here >>

While gas used to be affordable, when the gas industry started exporting fossil gas from Queensland in 2015, it linked domestic and global markets causing east coast gas prices to double and triple. Australia is now one of the world’s biggest exporters of gas – 82% of it goes overseas!

As local gas producers choose to prioritise international markets to maximise their profits, gas is only going to get more expensive. That’s why going all electric is the smartest and cheapest long-term option for upgrading and renovating.

This graph shows the huge explosion in Australia's gas exports, which resulted in large price increases. Source: AEMO

Start making the switch to all electric

The upfront costs of switching appliances can be prohibitive for most households. But the good news is there are plenty of easy and low-cost options that can help anyone begin to reduce their consumption of fossil gas.

3. How will going electric reduce emissions?

The growth in clean wind and solar means electricity is now a cleaner source of energy for cooking, heating and hot water – and has been in Victoria since 2019, if you’re using efficient electric appliances.3 As we get closer to a 100% renewable energy system, with more clean energy coming online, this gap will continue to grow. 

Importantly, going all-electric can reduce climate pollution right now. While the gas industry likes to spruik fantasies pumping hydrogen into the gas network in the distant future, this is little more than greenwashing. Learn more about why hydrogen is not a viable alternative for home use.

Climate change solution could come from 'electrifying everything', Australian inventor Saul Griffith says

ABC

By electrifying everything that can be electrified, Australia could cut its emissions by 80 per cent by 2035, according to credible estimates.

 

4. Why more renewable energy means we need LESS fossil gas?

Gas consumption for electricity generation is expected to decrease 69.5% in Victoria over the next 5 years due to the influx of clean energy.4 And this is a trend we are already seeing in South Australia.

One of the biggest myths about fossil gas is the idea that it’s a ‘transition fuel’ and somehow, we will need more of it as we build more clean energy. Of course, this suits the gas industry in their efforts to justify generous grants from the taxpayer, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Burning gas is useful mainly because it is very flexible, but it’s also an extremely expensive way of producing electricity. When gas generation increases so does the cost of electricity, that’s why gas is the last type of generation to switch on and the first to switch off.

Luckily, the days of gas electricity generation “firming” renewables seem to be numbered. According to the Clean Energy Council, grid-scale batteries are already the better alternative – cheaper, cleaner and more flexible.

Faster, cheaper, cleaner: Big batteries the new king of peaking services

Renew Economy

Big batteries have emerged as the more effective provider of peaking services within the electricity market, beating out gas generators on cost and effectiveness.

 

5. What are the health effects of burning gas in the home?

When fossil gas is burnt it releases toxic pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (HCHO) which can exacerbate respiratory and other health ailments.  

Research has found that using a gas stove indoors with bad ventilation has a similar impact on childhood asthma to that of living in a smoking household. It is estimated that cooking with gas is responsible for 12% of the cases of childhood asthma in Australia.

For more information on the health impacts of gas see the Climate Council’s report Kicking The Gas Habit: How Gas Is Harming Our Health and the National Asthma Council’s fact sheet on gas stoves.

 

6. What about industrial applications where gas is more difficult to substitute?

We have simple and immediate solutions to start phasing out gas use in homes and small businesses. The good news is that accounts for a vast majority of the gas consumed in Victoria (60%). The path to phase out other applications such as high temperature industrial processes is less straight-forward.

There are significant opportunities to reduce industrial gas use through efficiency measures, and based on existing evidence we believe that renewables-produced or “green” hydrogen will likely play a key role in decarbonising those uses that cannot be easily electrified.

Read our full report on how Victoria can reduce gas demand >>

 

7. Why can’t we just pump green hydrogen into the existing network?

Replacing dirty methane gas with green hydrogen in our homes would require extremely expensive upgrades to the entire gas network. It would also require households to replace existing gas appliances which would not be able to burn hydrogen.

Unsurprisingly the industry omits these important details in their greenwashing.

Hydrogen is also predicted to remain too expensive for household use for an extremely long time. Meanwhile electric alternatives cheaper and less polluting to run right now.

One of the gas industry’s favourite spin tactics is to talk up the potential of ‘blending’ clean hydrogen (at very small percentages) into the existing gas network. This creates the impression that it could be scaled up in the future, but even the Hydrogen Council acknowledges5 that hydrogen is less competitive than electrification for uses such as heat and power for buildings – which is where Victoria uses most of its gas.

The gas industry spin about using green hydrogen in our regular gas network has more to do with preserving the gas industry’s profits and the value of their pipeline assets.

Hydrogen in the gas grid is a dumb idea – very dumb

Renew Economy

In Germany, they’ve actually had a look at the issues around putting hydrogen into European gas grids and they’ve declared it’s all a waste.
References
  1. https://www.pnas.org/content/109/17/6435
  2. https://renew.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Household_fuel_choice_in_the_NEM_Revised_June_2018.pdf
  3. https://renew.org.au/renew-magazine/efficient-homes/emissions-intensity-of-household-electricity-vs-gas/
  4. https://aemo.com.au/-/media/files/gas/national_planning_and_forecasting/vgpr/2021/2021-victorian-gas-planning-report.pdf, p31 – 32.
  5. https://hydrogencouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Path-to-Hydrogen-Competitiveness_Full-Study-1.pdf

A gas-free Victoria

Burning fossil gas is responsible for 16% of Victoria's climate pollution. But the good news is we already have the solutions!