No one would argue that natural gas is a carbon-neutral or even low-carbon energy source, but it's a whole heck of a lot better than burning coal, oil from tar sands, or oil from anywhere for that matter. That's the conventional viewpoint. A new piece by ProPublica, highlighting new EPA analysis of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas, calls all that into question.
At the heart of it all is whether you just consider smokestack emissions--on which basis natural gas is about 50% cleaner than coal--or include all the emissions from the entire national gas production and distribution process. When you do that the benefit of natural gas is cut in half.
TreeHugger has covered this issue before, but there are some startling new calculations on the emissions from natural gas:
- From hydraulic fracturing operations (that's fracking, remember...), methane emissions were up to 9,000 times higher than previously reported.
- Just from leaking loose pipe fittings and gas flaring at wells, greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 35 million automobiles are emitted annually--equal to 20% of all human-caused methane emissions.
- At US power plants, based on the new calculations, the median natural gas power plant is just 40% cleaner than coal-fired power plants.
Read more: ProPublica
photo: Rick Hurdle/Creative Commons
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