Planet-Warming Methane Leaking at Higher Rate, Study Finds
By Geoffrey Mohan
February 13, 2014, 5:21 p.m.
Federal regulators are missing about 14 million metric tons of greenhouse gas in their annual inventory, most of which likely comes from the nation’s growing natural gas industry, according to a new study.
But despite the higher estimate of methane leakage, switching from coal to the cleaner-burning fuel makes long-term sense for reducing greenhouse gases linked to climate change, according to an analysis of data in 200 studies, published online Thursday in the journal Science.
“While we believe the leakage rates are likely higher than official estimates, they’re unlikely to be high enough to disfavor shifting from coal to natural gas,” said the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an energy resource engineer at Stanford University.
Not all policies involving natural gas are equally beneficial, the study warned. Although burning natural gas instead of gasoline in motor vehicles might benefit the planet over the next 100 years, switching from diesel buses, an increasingly common policy in many cities, could wind up creating more planet-warming gas, according to the study.