Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Oxymoron of Sustainable Development: The Case of Natural Gas

Sustainable development is an oxymoron when you think about the actual usage of the phrase. Moreover, the focus is on development, as the grammatical composition of the phrase suggests. Also in practical terms, the term is used to point out the necessity of environmental thinking for the sake of long-term profitability. Even then, sustainability thinks in terms of net present value, where future value is belittled because of its uncertainty and distance. But you know – for the future generations, it is neither uncertain nor distant. We are already living at the expense of future generations with regard to fiscal policies, and do not feel much qualm about living at the expense of future generations’ rights to natural resources and, more importantly, the planet itself.
I lived in Switzerland from 2004 to 2007, and was continually entertained by the Swiss government’s dancing to and fro regarding policies to meet the Kyoto Protocol target in emission reduction. The neighboring country, Germany, was stepping bold into the future, while Switzerland was weighing between many alternatives with just about the same minuscule audacity. A few cents of emission tax was heavily attacked by the business world, and was soon abolished at the initial stage of discussion. This went on and on, moving from tax on fuel to tax on heating oil. However, this was nothing compared to what I had to encounter when I moved to Norway in 2007.

Today, the David Suzuki Foundation released a new report about the impact of natural gas production on climate change. ( According to the report, rapid expansion of natural gas production capacity can have a net negative impact on the fight against climate change. Also, unconventional natural gas such as shale gas can lead to direct environmental damages, as shown in the case of the U.S. shale gas development. Natural gas is seemingly an easy way to get ahead with both of sustainability and development. But the report says it is all about development, when you actually take a deeper look at it.
Recommendations are the usual ones: more governance, more direct actions such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), and publicity. I have seen this set of recommendations since several years ago in so many different countries and in so many different settings, that they begin sounding like some political propaganda.
My conclusion is simple, as always: Enough said. Walk the talk.


  1. Good to see you join Jun. Looking forward to some book reviews.

  2. Hi Jun, just feeling the climate change agenda is losing presence in the public debate after the overwhelming news coming from every corner of the planet: debt, food, fuel, political just add the word "crisis" to each of them...

  3. A good point, Cristian. :) But this has been a homework for mankind for decades, and we did virtually nothing. The US Debt Crisis, and bringing justice to genocides in Africa and Europe, reaching ODA target of 1% of GDP... There are oodles of things we just talk about and do nothing. So, time to walk the talk.