International study in Nature shows fossil fuels are much larger sources of climate-busting methane – aka “natural” gas – up to 40% worse than earlier thought
A new study published in the British journal Nature has dramatically boosted earlier evidence that the accelerated use of “natural” gas by U.S. electricity corporations is a key driver of the climate crisis that has belatedly gripped the public’s attention. The authors, members of an international team of scientists, estimate that the fossil-fuel industry’s emissions of unburned methane – a super-potent heat-trapping gas – are as much as 40 percent higher than previously believed.
The findings amplify warnings by scientists from Cornell, Duke University and elsewhere that the massive expansion of fracked gas projects – which Duke Energy calls the “backbone” of its corporate future – must be stopped. The U.S. fracking boom appears to have worsened the problem. But on a hopeful note, the new study authors echo other scientists in saying that curbing gas projects “could give a strong short-term boost to efforts to stabilize the climate.” [The Guardian]
That’s because, while methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere, it has 86 times the impact of carbon dioxide in the all-critical short term. Continued routine emissions and leaks before gas even arrives at the power plant make it harder “to keep the planet’s temperatures from soaring past global climate goals.” [National Geographic]
The New York Times and a few other publications ran good articles on the study, but most U.S. media have ignored it so far. This allows Duke Energy and other fossil fuel industries to keep pretending that natural gas is clean and a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future.
Among the relatively few headlines:
- National Geographic: Natural gas is a much ‘dirtier’ energy source than we thought
- New York Times: Oil and Gas May be a Far Bigger Climate Threat Than We Knew
- USA TODAY: Methane emissions from burning fossil fuels has been ‘vastly underestimated,’ study says
- The Guardian: Oil and gas firms ‘have had far worse climate impact than thought’
- Bloomberg News: Humanity’s Methane Problem Could be Way Bigger Than Scientists Thought
In the Carolinas alone, Duke is building or planning nearly 14,000 megawatts of new power generation from gas – equal to 30 large power plants – and the troubled Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which, if ever completed, would cost Duke customers $20 billion over the first 20 years.
The world’s leading climate scientists, including Duke University’s Drew Shindell, are calling on elected officials such as NC Governor Roy Cooper to take the lead in closing fossil fuel projects.
As the Nature study’s lead author, Benjamin Hmiel, told National Geographic, “if we make changes to our current methane emissions, it’s going to reflect more quickly” … a hopeful note.
Meanwhile, Duke Energy keeps pounding out the propaganda, causing 56% of NC voters to think that Duke “is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables such as solar or wind power” as shown in a December poll commissioned by NC WARN, instead of what the corporation is actually doing: hugely expanding its use of fossil fuels while impeding the growth of a cheaper, more reliable approach that matches solar and wind power with battery storage.