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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Natural Gas From Shale Not A Clean "Bridge Fuel" And May Worsen Climate Change


Some promote natural gas as a clean fuel for transportation that can solve both the climate change and energy security crises, but a paper released yesterday in Climate News casts doubt on that direction.
Some have proposed Natural Gas to be used as a supposedly clean "bridge fuel" to address both climate change and national energy security concerns. However recent research, published in Climate News, by a team led by Robert Howarth, Renee Santoro, and Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell Univ, casts a shadow of doubt on this proposal due to methane leakage, not to mention the controversy over hydraulic fracturing that has enabled the natural gas boom to exist in the first place.
While natural gas is, well, a gas, and frequently used for generating electricity and heating, it can be used as a transportation fuel if compressed (CNG) or liquified (LNG). Many see natural gas as clean, but that's when compared against coal. For transportation fuels the primary advantage of natural gas is that it's a domestic fuel available widely inside the U.S. due do the rapid growth of hydraulic fracturing. Primarily transportation fuels in the U.S. come from fossil oil imported from other countries. Because the U.S. passed its peak of oil production in 1971, it's not possible to make a meaningful increase in domestic oil production. Even if U.S. domestic oil production could be meaningfully increased, it would come at the cost of environmental and climate degradation. This means the U.S. is stuck with a transportation fleet utterly dependent on foreign fossil oil, sending vast reams of money to foreign countries to buy that fossil oil, no meaningful way to increase domestic fossil oil production, and some prominent voices suggesting natural gas is both clean, abundant and domestic.