Alaska Climate Action Network

Natural Gas is the new Coal

New research from Harvard and Cornell shows that natural gas is just as bad as oil and gas. The myth of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” has been debunked. As stated in the Cornell paper:

“Using these new, best available data and a 20-year time period for comparing the warming potential of methane to carbon dioxide, the conclusion stands that both shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than do coal or oil, for any possible use of natural gas and particularly for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating.”

According to a 2014 Stanford University study, methane emissions may be 50 percent higher than official projections from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Research published last year also found the technology that EPA and others use to measure emissions may itself be flawed, and the amount of methane leaking into the atmosphere is likely “systematically underestimated.” A study published last August, for example, found natural gas facilities lose about 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year - about eight times the estimates used by EPA.

Last spring, one industry magazine went so far as to call natural gas "stranded assets."

Bill McKibben gives a good overview of the trajectory of natural gas in the US, and why it's such an important factor in climate change. 

"Because here’s the unhappy fact about methane: Though it produces only half as much carbon as coal when you burn it, if you don’t—if it escapes into the air before it can be captured in a pipeline, or anywhere else along its route to a power plant or your stove—then it traps heat in the atmosphere much more efficiently than CO2. Howarth and Ingraffea began producing a series of papers claiming that if even a small percentage of the methane leaked—maybe as little as 3 percent—then fracked gas would do more climate damage than coal."

This information has been shared with Avista's Jessie Wuerst and AEL&P's Alec Mesdag. 

Click here for a brief overview of how natural gas is produced and what happened with the Aliso Canyon leak in California. 

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