Leaving 60% of Oil Reserves Untouched Gives Climate 50% Chance of Remaining Stable
Steel needs approximately 24.5 GJ of energy per ton of final product, and unfortunately for the environment, most of this comes from coal, oil, and gas. So, when a new study by UCL researchers on how many resources we need to leave untouched in order not to allow the climate to reach a point beyond return is published, steelmakers cannot ignore it.
The numbers really don’t give much margin for play as the researchers say that if we leave 58% of remaining oil reserves, 59% of fossil methane gas, and 89% of all coal left on the planet alone, we have a 50% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5° C this century. The other 50% chance is to reach the 2° C threshold, which is when the “Pandora’s box” opens.
While the paper characterizes the reductions in fossil fuel use entirely feasible, and although it places hope in political zeal, the matter is complex as it affects countries very differently. For example, convincing the Middle Eastern countries to leave 60% of their oil and gas reserves in the ground sounds outlandish, if not straight out impossible.
But what can the steel industry do to get out of the fossil fuels bubble and diversify, especially with coal which covers roughly 90% of its energy needs? Truth is, it’s a major challenge, but if a transition to green energy sources could be carried out successfully, the world would be automatically absolved of 9% of the total fossil fuels emissions that burden our atmosphere each year.
There are some programs using hydrogen and electricity from renewable energy sources like solar panel parks and wind farms, but these won’t yield notable production volumes before 2026. Also, at current electricity prices, producing steel this way would make it between 20% and 30% more expensive.
Steel needs to go green one way or another no matter how insurmountable the hindrances along the way seem. Investors are now more focused on emissions, countries apply more pressure for compliance with stricter regulations, and energy costs aren’t the most crucial element of the economic incentives equation anymore.