Study: Is gas really better than coal for the climate?

E&E News discusses whether gas is really better than coal for the climate. (No)

America’s carbon dioxide emissions have fallen consistently over the last 15 years in large part because power companies have swapped coal for natural gas. Now it appears that those CO2 reductions might be smaller than previously thought.

A recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund found that 3.7% of natural gas produced in the Permian Basin leaked into the atmosphere. That’s enough to erase the greenhouse gas benefits of quitting coal for gas in the near term.

“The first thing to say is the 3.7% number really jumps off the page,” said Daniel Raimi, a researcher at Resources for the Future. “It is a really high emission rate. It is yet another indicator that the U.S. oil and gas system emits more than current EPA estimates would suggest.”

The study by EDF is significant on several fronts. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, produces about half the emissions of coal when burned, but it’s a much more powerful greenhouse gas when leaked into the atmosphere.

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