Study: The Surprising Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

EOS.org: The Surprising Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Changing the way emissions are tallied may help litigators focus on the worst climate offenders and shape mitigation.

belching coal plant is easy to identify as a probable greenhouse gas polluter. Coal emissions are point source pollution—like a chemical spill in a stream, the pollution can be traced back to a specific activity at a precise place.

But is measuring the carbon produced at a power plant the best way to monitor emissions? A team of scientists recently took a different approach to estimating carbon dioxide: the bottleneck method. Instead of considering the pollution emitted only at the end use, burning phase of fossil fuel use, the researchers considered all phases: mining, transport, refining, and burning.

Their study identified the worst emissions offenders, and the results were surprising: oil and gas pipelines. The researchers noted that the companies enabling greenhouse gases emissions are most at risk of climate mitigation lawsuits.

Tallying Emissions

The new study, published in Energies, introduces the bottleneck method. “Most of the work that’s been done in this area in the past is looking at kind of end use because that’s where most of the emissions occur,” said Joshua Pearce, a materials and electrical engineering professor at Michigan Technological University and coauthor of the new study.

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