World Bank Phasing Out Coal, Ramping up Support for “Fracking”

Washington DC – Shortly after a major speech in which President Barack Obama announced his plans to shift public funding away from coal and move the U.S. electrical fleet away from coal and toward greater reliance on natural gas, a document leaked from within the World Bank reveals the Bank also intends to stop lending for new coal plants and coal mines and ramp up its investments in natural gas globally.

But recent studies suggest fracked gas releases greater greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

“The World Bank is jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire,” said Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, and founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network. “Instead of leading the world toward a truly clean energy future, the World Bank is once again locking the developing world into a finite, carbon-based energy system. This makes no sense from a climate perspective, nor does it make sense from an economic perspective: the International Energy Agency tells us the price of natural gas will exceed that of renewable energy by 2016.”

The Bank’s document claims that “natural gas…has half the carbon footprint of coal at the point of combustion,” yet recent studies suggest that natural gas — particularly gas obtained by process of hydro-fracturing, or “fracking” — may actually be worse than coal, in terms of its lifetime carbon footprint, due to fugitive methane emissions routinely released in the process of fracking and transporting gas.

The document, allegedly to be discussed by the World Bank’s board of directors on July 19, 2013, states: “The WBG [World Bank Group] will cease providing financial support for greenfield coal power generation projects, except in rare circumstances… The WBG will continue to finance investments in various industrial and commercial processes — such as steel, cement, and other manufacturing operations — while seeking gains in energy efficiency and employment of best practices.” The Bank document also suggests it will consider financing coal projects where carbon capture and storage technology is in place.

In addition to scaling up its engagement in promotion of “unconventional” — or so-called “fracked” natural gas — the leaked document suggests the Bank is committed “to scaling up engagement in hydropower after largely withdrawing from it for a time.”

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