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Study confirms lower emissions from natural gas

Further confirmation of the environmental benefits of natural gas came recently from one of our nation’s leading national laboratories. In late August the government’s National Energy Technology Laboratory issued findings that greenhouse-gas emissions from natural gas are roughly half those from coal when generating electricity.

Most people are already aware of the lower carbon intensity of natural gas compared to coal when used to generate electricity.

But what makes this study so important is that the laboratory’s findings include the emissions involved in producing natural gas from hydraulic fracturing as part of studying the whole picture.

That’s another strike against those, including a Cornell academic, who argue that so-called fugitive emissions from unconventional natural gas production offset the emissions advantages natural gas has over coal in power generation.

The professor’s theory about life-cycle emissions earned a lot of media coverage, but was subsequently debunked by several of his Cornell colleagues, not to mention the analysts at IHS CERA.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory explains that hydraulic fracturing produces life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions that are about three percent higher than conventional natural gas drilling.

However, that small increase is far outweighed by the emissions reductions that come when utilities switch from coal to gas to generate electricity. In other words, it’s a net gain for the environment.

All the more reason for policymakers to encourage the development of America’s abundant natural gas resources.

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