Studies show that methane leaks at drilling sites can make the gas as bad as coal.

A A new peer-reviewed paper to be published in Environmental Research Letters next week adds to the collection of research showing why our love affair with the natural world must end after death. (The results of this study can be read below.)

For years, natural gas—mainly made up of methane—has been touted as a bridge to a new world of sustainable energy, a way to replace coal without waiting for more (and many would add nuclear) to meet all our energy needs. . This has worked in the United States to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% since 2005, coal’s share of US electricity generation fell last year to less than 20%. That’s because burning methane produces about half of coal’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But there is a big problem. In 20 years, do not burn methane gas has a global warming potential that is 84 times greater than that of carbon dioxide emitted by burning coal. Carbon dioxide leaves the atmosphere much faster than carbon dioxide, but even after a century, it has a global warming potential 24 times that of CO.2. The amount of methane in the atmosphere is now about 170% higher than it was before industrialization and the tides. Scientists say methane gas is responsible for about 30% of the warming we’ve seen in the industrial climate so far. About 40% of methane comes from natural sources and about 60% comes from human activities – anthropogenic emissions.

These environmental factors include the melting of sea ice, which can release large amounts of methane as the Arctic Ocean continues to warm four times more than the average global temperature. But scientists differ on how climate change will affect the melting of permafrost. Human sources are agriculture, landfills, and leaking oil wells and … gas-wasting activities.

Research is available that fracked gas pipelines in the Permian Basin were leaking 14 times more methane than previously thought.

As we have seen in various studies over the past few years, more and more material is being added to the removal and hauling process than previously reported to government officials and the removal industry. Finally year, lesson found that pipelines carrying fracked gas in the Permian Basin oil fields in Texas were leaking 14 times more methane than before. Amazing! Another study in 2022 found this New Mexico’s Methane Emissions Exceed Current Estimates. And there was this report of the Gulf of Mexico leak.

Hiroko Tabuchi in the New York Times reports about recent research:

It takes as little as 0.2 percent of gas leakage for natural gas to become as big a climate change impact as coal, the study found. This is a small risk of gas that is known to leak from drilling rigs, machinery and pipelines that transport it to power plants or homes and kitchens.

The bottom line: If emissions go up, even a little, “it’s as bad as coal,” said Deborah Gordon, a senior researcher and environmental policy expert at Brown University and the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit research organization that focuses on climate change. pure energy. . “You can’t see it as a good bridge, or a replacement.” […]

The findings raise serious questions about how much the world’s countries should invest in natural gas production to reduce global warming. It’s $370 billions of Depreciation Funds passed by the United States Congress last year, which aimed to move the country away from fossil fuels and towards renewables, including credits that would apply to other types of gas.

Robert Howarth, the famous earth system scientist who who has been warning about Methane emissions for more than 10 years but was not involved in the study, he said of the researchers in an email to the Times: “Their conclusion also shows that natural gas may not be better than the current climate. and coal, especially when viewed from the temperature of the next 20 years, which is a very difficult period ” meeting the climate goals. “I hope that countries and political leaders in the world will pay attention to this, because I fear that many are still fixated on reducing the use of coal, even if it leads to a greater use of natural gas. What the world needs is to move away from all fossil fuels soon, to a 100% renewable energy future. “

Meanwhile, C-SPAN this week was full of Republican climate experts who attend environmental conferences as if their views are the same as those of scientists with, say, two decades of research on the Greenland ice sheet. The idea of ​​withdrawing natural gas to combat climate change is what these politicians see as anti-American heresy, especially when it comes to their pocketbooks and patrons.

Indeed, as Howarth said in 2019 interview and Blaine Friedlander in the Cornell Chronicle: “Reducing methane now could provide the fastest way to reduce global warming and meet the United Nations’ goal of keeping the world below 2-degree Celsius. (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The recent increase in methane is huge. It is important all over the world. It has contributed to the increase in global warming we have seen and shale gas is a major player. If we stop pouring methane into the atmosphere, it will stop. They leave very quickly, compared to carbon dioxide. It is a small fruit to reduce global warming.”

More than 130 countries have pledged to reduce methane production. China and the United States have agreed to work together to reduce methane emissions and the agreement appears to be working despite various tensions between the two countries. The Inflation Reduction Act has necessary reduce methane emissions. United States has also established methane fines as a deterrent to companies that would ignore emissions. We will see how well this payment method works compared to a cease and desist letter.

The Global Methane Tracker found that in 2022 the world’s energy industry was responsible for releasing 135 million tons of methane into the atmosphere, slightly lower than what was seen in 2019. , second only to agriculture.

If we were to reduce human-caused methane emissions by 30% worldwide this decade from the 2020 standards, which is the time of the Global Methane Pledge, it would reduce the temperature by 0.2°C (0.36F) by 2050. But how is this possible without significant changes in point?

Our leaders need to remember that the operative word for stopping the early fuel burn is ASAP. However We are currently building a new gas infrastructure with a 50-year lifespan, with tax revenue to help pay the tab. New natural gas facilities are under construction and others are under construction or in the pipeline to be approved. Oil and gas companies are still getting paid to operate on public land, including in troubled seas that still bear the brunt of their neglect. All over the world, the search for new oil and gas has not slowed down.

This is the wrong way.

If we hope to have any chance of reducing climate and biodiversity damage caused by humans along with the climate change of modern civilization, the green transition must be accelerated. Check, check, check.


The climate of natural gas and coal is highly dependent on methane emissions. Every molecule of methane emitted alters climate change because methane warms the planet more than CO2 in its ten-year lifetime. We find that global emissions of more than 4.7% of methane (considering a 20-year time frame) or 7.6% (considering a 100-year time frame) are equivalent to emissions from coal mining. Climate pollution from coal is also affected by SO2 emissions, which act to form sulfate aerosols that mask heat. We run scenarios that include different types of methane emissions from coal and natural gas with low to high SO2 emissions based on coal sulfur content, cleanup gas efficiency, and global warming of sulfate aerosols. Methane and SO2 released together with CO2 change the gas interaction between gas and coal. We estimate gas leakage down to 0.2% equivalent to coal, assuming 1.5% sulfur coal that is 90% coal-fired with no coal mine methane under 20-year climate conditions. Recent aerial surveys of US oil and gas basins have found that natural oil production ranging from 0.65% to 66.2%, which is also known worldwide. Many of these high-emissions gas systems that have been recognized around the world emphasize the need to accelerate methane detection, accounting, and resource management to ensure that natural gas stocks are less expensive than coal.

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