Report: Natural Gas Not as Clean as Advertised

From the New York Times comes a report on a new study that blows a hole in the notion that natural gas is a clean fuel, particularly as it compares to diesel as a transportation fuel.

"The lady in the black pantsuit", who appears nightly on your TV screen, doesn't want you to hear this, because she has been trying for years to convince you that natural gas is "clean" and is the salvation of both the economy and the environment. Turns out, it is neither.

The sign is ubiquitous on city buses around the country: “This bus runs on clean burning natural gas.”

But a surprising new report, to be published Friday in the journal Science, concludes that switching buses and trucks from traditional diesel fuel to natural gas could actually harm the planet’s climate.

Although burning natural gas as a transportation fuel produces 30 percent less planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions than burning diesel, the drilling and production of natural gas can lead to leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Those methane leaks negate the climate change benefits of using natural gas as a transportation fuel, according to the study, which was conducted by scientists at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The study concludes that there is already about 50 percent more methane in the atmosphere than previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, a signal that more methane is leaking from the natural gas production chain than previously thought.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective,” said the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the department of energy resources at Stanford.

This is very timely information, particularly as the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is set to consider new rules for emissions from oil and gas facilities in our state. There is much more at this link.

The rulemaking being undertaken by our Colorado Health Department is a historic effort that should have everyones' attention. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time on planet earth a government has considered regulating methane emissions. This decision will have dramatic effects, not only on the health of Coloradans, but on communities around the globe as, once again, Colorado is leading the way toward responsible energy regulation.

The air we breathe is not a commodity with a relative value that should be discounted because of the profits of the worlds' wealthiest industry. I encourage everyone who can get there to attend the hearing next Wednesday, Feb. 19th., at the Aurora City Council Chambers, 15151 East Alameda Parkway, in Aurora. Public comment should begin about 9:00 AM, but things sometimes change on short notice.

The CDPHE website offers 303-692-2000 as an information source. Please consider participating in these hearings…unless, of course, you don't breathe air.

Go to CO State Page
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