Contrary to gas company claims, a new study found that ditching coal for natural gas won’t have a noticeable affect on climate change.
Although coal produces more global-warming gas per unit of energy than natural gas, extraction of the latter releases untold amounts of methane into the atmosphere. And methane is a potent greenhouse gas with far more heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide.
In fact, cutting worldwide coal burning by half and using natural gas instead would actually increase global temperatures over the next four decades by about one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, according to Tom Wigley, a senior research associate at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Wigley goes on to state that even if the natural gas industry found a way to prevent every last methane leak (an impossible feat), world populations would have to wait until about 2050 before there was any noticeable decrease in global temperature. And if methane leaks continued unchecked, the global warming trend will last until 2140.
And that’s not even the worse part.
Today, most natural gas is extracted through a process called hydraulic fracturing, whereby a soup of highly toxic chemicals, sand and water is forced underground to blast open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. This process contaminates underground water supplies and in many cases results in flammable (read: undrinkable) tap water.
Oh yeah, and hydraulic fracturing greatly increases methane leakage during extraction.
Once again we see that, no matter how the industry tries to spin it, fossil fuels will never be the answer to a clean and secure energy future. It’s time to stop spending our time and money making excuses for a dying industry.
It’s time to embrace the promise of renewable energy technology by using federal dollars to increase research, development and work force training so that our children will know the pleasure of other seasons besides HOT.
Source: LA Times
Image Credit: Flickr - stevendepolo