By ending funding for energy infrastructure projects that rely on natural gas, Europe and the United States have executed a “blanket ban” on supplying inexpensive and reliable energy to people living in poor countries.

As Dr. Ramachandran details in Nature, a de facto natural gas ban effectively does nothing to propel growth in intermittently-available wind and solar energy. These renewable sources require a back-up energy supply that is ever-ready even when the Sun is not shining or wind is not blowing. They cannot function effectively as stand-alone energy sources.

Banning gas therefore obstructs nearly 600 million Africans from finally achieving access to modern agricultural technology, refrigeration, transportation, hospitals, housing, schools, etc.

This ban on inexpensive and reliable energy in poor countries does not reduce CO2 emissions or mitigate climate change. Instead, banning gas serves to keep people living in poorer countries entrenched in poverty.

Image Source: Ramachandran, 2021

Even as funding large-scale renewable energy projects in Africa (such as photovoltaic solar farms in the Sahara desert) fails to meet the needs of energy-poor citizens, computer model simulations (Lu et al., 2021) suggest such renewable energy projects could cause “Amazon droughts and forest degradation, global surface temperature rise and sea-ice loss” as well as “enhanced tropical cyclone activity.”

So not only can “blanket bans” on natural gas keep poor people who lack access to electricity entrenched in poverty, the climate impact of using renewable energy sources could actually be the opposite of what is hoped for.

So why are we doing this?

Image Source: Lu et al., 2021

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June 28, 2021