Dr. Lars Schernikau, energy economist, entrepreneur, and commodity trader explains in a short 18min video a new peer-reviewed research paper authored by him and Prof William H. Smith of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis about the ” ‘Climate Impacts’ of Fossil Fuels in Today’s Energy Systems”.

Lars and Bill Smith analyzed new information published over the past year by the IPCC and IEA on methane and carbon dioxide. Some of the analysis confirms what we knew before, i.e. that about half of CO2 that is emitted to the atmosphere actually doesn’t end up airborne and thus cannot contribute to global warming… it is taken up by nature and contributes to greening of the Earth (also confirmed by NASA). All sources are well documented in the paper including links.

Other analysis results are rather surprising, which even the authors didn’t expect. For this, however, “IPCC’s Global Warming Potential GWP” needs to be accepted (see Lars’ YouTube video for a short introduction). A short summary of the main points from the paper:

Energy policy needs to take the entire life-cycle environmental impact of emissions and non-emission of energy systems into account. Focusing only on combustion leads to economically and environmentally undesired effects.

  • life-cycle includes production, processing, transportation, operations, and recycling
  • non-emissions environmental impacts include energy input, material requirement, space requirements, animal/plant life, health/safety, and more.

All energy systems need to be analyzed for this full life-cycle effect on the environment, including conventional and “renewables”, to decide on priorities and compare those to the economic impact of switching from one to the other.

Applying this logic to the coal and gas value chains and including only reported methane (CH4) and CO2 emissions, it turns out that surface-mined coal is “better for the climate” than the average naturally gas, especially LNG.

Please keep in mind the authors have nothing against LNG or natural gas, quite the contrary… they are amazing energy resources we and we need them urgently… these are only logical conclusions from IPCC and IEA data.

The point is not to favor coal over gas or the other way around, but to analyze what IPCC and IEA reported numbers would mean. With a large portion of green-house gas warming stemming from methane (much of it natural and from agriculture), we may start to see the world differently.

These are quite eye-opening analysis outcomes that would result in significant energy policy adjustments especially after COP26’s anti-coal agenda. Logically, based on this information, CO2 taxation and most decarbonization efforts (see ESG metrics in large conglomerates or banks) are not having the modeled envrironmental advantages and lead to unwanted market distortions.

The academic peer-reviewed research paper is available online at SSRN’s electronic journal, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3968359