Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Coal versus Gas - Which is worse for the climate (Naked Capitalism)


Gas From Fracking More Damaging to Climate Than Coal?

I’m pretty amazed that no one looked into the greenhouse gas impact of fracking until now. One of the big rationales for fracking, which is already controversial due to reports of damage to aquifers, is that it was abundant in North America and also produces comparatively little in the way of carbon emissions.
The problem, per a study soon to be published by Cornell University, is fracking results in the release of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, apparently enough to undercut the claims that it is relatively “clean”. From NewsWise:
Extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale could do more to aggravate global warming than mining coal, according to a Cornell study published in the May issue of the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change Letters.
While natural gas has been touted as a clean-burning fuel that produces less carbon dioxide than coal, ecologist Robert Howarth warns that we should be more concerned about methane leaking into the atmosphere during hydraulic fracturing.
Natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide, Howarth said, adding that even small leaks make a big difference. He estimated that as much as 8 percent of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well – up to twice what escapes from conventional gas production.
“The take-home message of our study is that if you do an integration of 20 years following the development of the gas, shale gas is worse than conventional gas and is, in fact, worse than coal and worse than oil,” Howarth said. “We are not advocating for more coal or oil, but rather to move to a truly green, renewable future as quickly as possible. We need to look at the true environmental consequences of shale gas.”….

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