Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Study says methane leaks from oil and gas industry could negate climate benefits of using gas instead of coal

According to a new study published in the journal Science, "the U.S. oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane from its operations each year — nearly 60 percent more than current estimates and enough to offset much of the climate benefits of burning natural gas instead of coal," Andrew Freedman reports for Axios. That's a leakage rate of 2.3 percent, compared to the Environmental Protection Agency's estimate of 1.4 percent.

The study, led by Environmental Defense Fund researchers with 19 co-authors from 15 institutions, said the leaked methane is worth $2 billion and would power 10 million homes, Steve Mufson reports for The Washington Post.

The study matters because natural gas is now the top source of fuel for U.S. electricity generation, and methane is a potent, though short-lived, trigger for global warming: "Methane can have more than 80 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide during the first 20 years after its release, though it declines after that," Freedman reports. One more thing: Robert Howarth of Cornell University pointed out shortcomings of the study that could indicate even higher methane emissions.

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, told Mufson that natural-gas operations could easily reduce methane leakage, which he said would deliver "significant short-term climate benefits."

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