Natural gas can rival coal’s climate-warming potential when leaks are counted

A new study suggests that the climate warming effects of natural gas could equal those of coal, when accounting for methane leaks.

Research findings: The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, highlights that even minor methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure can push its emissions impact to rival that of coal.
* Rates of methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure were found to be higher than previously estimated.
* The study takes into account the production, use, and leakages of both natural gas and coal.
* The research found that even methane leaks as low as 0.2% could elevate natural gas’s emissions impact to be on par with coal, despite recent surveys suggesting leakages of 0.65% to 66.2%.

Industry response: The natural gas industry, which presents itself as a climate-friendly alternative to coal, now faces challenges following these revelations.
* Power plant carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have dropped about 35% since 2005, primarily due to the transition from coal to gas.
* Industry representatives maintain that they are developing innovative technology to detect and reduce methane emissions.

Environmental impact: Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, despite not remaining in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide.
* Environmental groups argue that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently underestimates methane emissions.
* Critics believe that the natural gas industry needs to virtually eliminate methane leaks to maintain its climate advantage over coal.
* The Environmental Defense Fund plans to launch a sophisticated methane-tracking satellite in early 2024.

View original article on NPR

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