Thursday, September 01, 2016

CO2 emissions from natural gas predicted to surpass coal emissions for first time since 1972

This year carbon-dioxide emissions from using natural gas are expected to surpass CO2 emissions from burning coal for the first time since 1972, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy. Overall, natural-gas emissions are expected to be 10 percent higher than coal emissions. Natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, but use of it is on the rise, while coal is suffering a downturn. Natural gas consumption in 2015 was 81 percent higher than coal consumption, but their emissions were nearly equal. (DOE graphic)
"Natural gas consumption is expected to continue rising, however, and the EIA expects the U.S. will emit about 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from natural gas in 2016, compared to about 1.4 billion metric tons from coal," Bobby Magill reports for Climate Central. "Natural gas emits about half as much climate change-driving carbon dioxide as coal." But there's a caveat.

"Though natural gas burns cleaner than coal, producing natural gas and piping it to power plants leaks methane into the atmosphere," Magill writes. "Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 35 times as potent as carbon dioxide in driving climate change over the span of a century, and global atmospheric concentrations of it have been increasing steadily since 2007. That increase has been tied partly to U.S. natural gas production." The report did not account for methane leaks, which are difficult to measure.

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