A new report from IHS Markit suggests another boom in us gas production, with production up 10 per cent this year from 2017 and 60 per cent over the next 20 years. The authors say this means more work and less climate change-causing carbon dioxide to enter the atmosphere.
But there is a dark side to the gas boom: a study published this week in the journal science shows that methane emissions from natural gas production are significantly higher than previously known. Methane, which causes global warming, is more efficient than carbon dioxide but stays in the atmosphere for a shorter time.
The two realities underscore the growing divide between environmental groups and policymakers over the future of natural gas in the us energy mix. Some progressive groups argue that fossil fuels should be removed, and pragmatic environmentalists argue that technology can help reduce methane emissions and help tackle climate change.
“Methane is the industry’s Achilles heel because they look to the future,” says matt Watson of the environmental protection foundation, which organises the study. “If the industry wants to be a valuable part of the future of decarbonisation, they have to address this problem.”
By EDF and a series of academic institutions and industry partners led by scientific studies have found that the oil and gas industry supply chains of methane emissions (that is, in the process of production and transportation) than the United States environmental protection agency (EPA) estimates. The new study highlights annual methane emissions that are the same as the amount of heat in the earth’s atmosphere, and are actually carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas.
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EDF’s leaders say curbing methane emissions is a relatively easy way to tackle global warming. The group argues that various approaches proposed under federal policy require oil and gas companies to prevent leaks and push industries to implement new technologies. The moves have received some support in the oil and gas industries, largely because trapped methane can create new sources of revenue. The rhodium group’s 2015 report estimated that the global methane leak in 2012 caused $30 billion in lost revenue.
In this view, natural gas will be a “bridge fuel” that will help the world to move away from coal altogether as renewable energy technologies evolve. Last year, the United States produced the lowest amount of carbon dioxide in years, largely because of the rapid deployment of natural gas to replace coal.