Natural Gas to Help Forests?

Believe it or not, that’s exactly what the co-head of a U.N. sustainable energy program told the press at Rio+20 on Monday. According to Kandeh Yumkella, the cleanest burning fossil fuel will go a long way toward offsetting a myriad of problems associated with clear-cutting forests as well as the use of wood to heat homes.

“You can’t save the forest if you don’t have gas,” Yumkella said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s one of the solutions we need to reduce deforestation and reduce the two million people who die every year because of indoor air pollution because they use firewood.”

Yumkella told Reuters that without resorting to natural gas, the U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative will have difficulty meeting goals of ensuring universal energy access, doubling the world’s share of renewable energy, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

The U.N. official also made a point of praising American ingenuity for developing the technology that has spurred the shale-gas revolution.

“We welcome new sources of energy, in fact you have to give the Americans credit,” Yumkella said. “Fifteen years ago they decided to invest in new technology. Shale gas is doable if the research and development is done and it is less polluting than other forms …. At the same time we need to safeguard, we need to make sure the technologies don’t do collateral damage.”

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