Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Natural gas can help fight pollution

By Lu Shyi-min 呂錫民

While countries around the world are taking concrete action to promote electric vehicles and vehicles powered by natural gas in an attempt to eliminate those that use combusted fossil fuels, 36 percent of Taiwan’s air pollution comes from cars and scooters.

According to the Energy Technology Perspectives 2017 report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in June, there were more than 2 million electric vehicles in the world in 2016, a 60 percent increase from the year before.

In 2016, China was the leading market for electric cars, making up more than 40 percent of the global market share and selling more than twice the number of cars sold in the US.

That year, there were more than 200 million electric two-wheeled vehicles and more than 300,000 electric cars in China, making it the world leader in electric vehicles.

More than 90 percent of electric vehicles sold globally are sold in the three big markets: China, Europe and the US. In Norway, electric cars made up 29 percent of the car market, the highest share in the world, followed by the Netherlands at 6.5 percent and Sweden at 3.4 percent.

According to the IEA report, the world needs 600 million electric cars by the end of the century to keep global warming below 2°C.

The world is moving quickly toward the electric car era.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Norway is planning to stop selling fossil-fuel vehicles by 2025, while China, Germany, India, Finland and the Netherlands are to do so by 2030. This will be expanded to the whole of the EU by 2035. By 2040, even the US, France and the UK are to stop selling fossil-fuel vehicles.

Given this strong trend, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) last month announced a time frame for the electrification of Taiwan’s public transport: official vehicles and buses by 2030, scooters by 2035 and all cars by 2040.

Like electric cars, natural gas-powered cars also help prevent air pollution. The main component of natural gas is methane, the simplest alkane with only one carbon atom, which means that the molecules contain no carbon-carbon bonds. This simple chemical structure makes it a naturally clean fuel.

Natural gas can be used directly, without any need for a complicated refinement process, as is the case for gasoline and diesel. Compared with traditional fuels, the cost is lower, and natural gas can be used in conventional gasoline and diesel engines without any need for modification.

Finally, natural gas exists all over the world, and prices and supplies are more stable than for oil, which is beneficial to national energy security.

Lu Shyi-min is a retired energy policy researcher at the Industrial Technology Research Institute’s Green Energy and Environment Laboratories.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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