Despite being hailed as the available, clean fuel of the future, the increased use of natural gas will not drastically alter greenhouse gas emissions if targeted climate policy is not implemented, according to a report published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
According to models in Implications of Shale Gas Development for Climate Change, without any substantial policy changes, slightly increasing natural gas use increases overall energy use and “more substantially” encourages fuel switching. The combined effect will only slightly affect end-outcome greenhouse gas emissions, but whether that change will be a moderate increase or a moderate decrease depends on upstream methane emissions.
Methane emissions from natural gas systems, higher energy consumption and the diversion of funds from renewable energy to natural gas extraction are some of the hurdles facing lower greenhouse emissions.
The report concludes that without substantial policy change, natural gas will not alter greenhouse emissions — but it could help the costs of achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals.
A study released in February also said that methane leaks from natural gas wells and pipes undermine the lower emissions potential of that fuel.
The report, which was published in the journal Science, suggests that switching from diesel to natural gas in trucks could increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Burning natural gas releases about half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal. But methane, a component of natural gas, often leaks out of pipes and wells, negating its climate benefits when burned.
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