Advocates of natural gas development like to tout the fuel's environmental benefits. They argue that it burns cleaner than coal, with significantly fewer emissions. Which is true. But according to new research, switching from coal to natural gas won't do much to curb cimate change. Why? Methane leaks.
Methane leaks from pipelines and wellheads are a reality of natural gas production. And methane's heat-trapping properties are potent. Over at Fast Company, Ariel Schwartz points to a National Center for Atmospheric Research study finding that a partial global shift from coal to natural gas would still accelerate climate change through 2050 — even without methane leaks. Add methane leakage and the acceleration could stretch to 2140.
These aren't the first research results to highlight the problem. A recent Cornell University study showed that planet-warming methane from natural gas operations is escaping into the atmosphere at far greater rates than previously thought.
"It has long been clear that natural gas is not the panacea to our energy woes," writes Schwartz. "But the latest warnings about methane leaks should remind us that natural gas may not much better than the dirtiest energy sources (like coal) available today."
(via Fast Company)
Photo: Sean Hobson / Flickr