Natural gas will provide 25 percent of global energy by 2035, up from 21 percent now, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a Paris-based organization that studies and advises on energy issues.
The IEA's report asks if the world is entering a "golden age" of natural gas and answers, more or less, "yes." (Although it seems possible that the organization framed the question that way only to create the perfect acronym for their analysis, which the report calls "The Golden Age of Gas Scenario," or GAS Scenario. Oooh, recursive!)
Natural gas' share in the energy mix will overtake coal's by 2030, according to the report. The organization sees natural gas as preferable option, carbon-wise, to coal, but the increase won't do nearly enough to decrease carbon emissions, the IEA reports. Fully half of the reductions in carbon-dioxide that the GAS scenario does predict would come from China switching over from coal. Right now, according to the report, China uses as much natural gas as Germany, but by 2035, it could use as much as the entire E.U.
As Grist readers are well aware, the methods for extracting natural gas carry with them some awkward inconveniences, like contaminated water tables, air pollution, and seeps of methane into the atmosphere. The IEA is on the case, though! Its analysis is premised on the idea that the "best practices in production" can avoid those problems. Since it's a European organization, the IEA is willing to say what that will take: Stronger government regulation. So basically we shouldn’t look for safe natural gas extraction in the U.S. any time soon.