The production of natural gas in the 1960s heralded a time of prosperity for the UK blessed with significant reserves in the North Sea and the Irish Sea, and the whole country changed over from gas from coke to natural gas in a very short time.
Also natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels in respect of CO2 and other emissions, which helped in the UK reduction in emissions to meet the targets of the Kyoto Protocol relatively easily, without any reduction in industrial output of trade.
The reduction in reserves however put a time limit on UK self reliance on natural gas reserves, as well as their continued contribution to meeting CO2 emission targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 – the UK world leading legislation on mitigating climate change and achievement of sustainable development.
Again, as with oil, gas had become almost essential to modern living standards, providing the majority of the space heating and hot water in buildings as well as an increasing role in electricity generation.
There is a strange dichotomy with the use of natural gas in housing, in that as the housing is made more energy efficient through thermal insulation and air-tightness, the amount of heat necessary for comfort temperature can mainly be provided through heat recovery from expelled air, and with the use of air to air heat pumps or solar water heating the need for a boiler is greatly reduced if not removed completely along with the need for gas for anything other than perhaps cooking.
Gas however, like oil, has many other uses, some for which it is indispensable, so the need for gas in industry and electricity generation should be preserved, even in the context of sustainable development, and as with coal emissions reduction through carbon capture and storage (CCS) may be a sustainable option.
There are many hydrocarbon gases that can and are produced through the processing of other materials and waste – from biological processes and landfill emissions capture, which in terms of security of supply will be important in national sustainable development plans.