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Friday, May 16, 2014

Study: Shale gas neither a climate hero nor villain - it's all about policy

A new study from Duke University finds that “abundant natural gas by itself is neither a climate hero nor a climate villain” and will not cause a substantial change in total greenhouse gas emissions.

Implications of Shale Gas Development for Climate Change was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. This article summarizes the results:
(S)o far increased natural gas has mostly taken the place of coal, but looking forward there also may be increased consumption for sectors such as industry, as well as some degree of displacement of zero-emission sources such as renewables and nuclear…The net effect on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions appears likely to be small in the absence of policies specifically directed at greenhouse gas mitigation.
The fact that increased shale gas doesn’t have a huge climate impact on its own doesn’t mean it’s not important. If broad climate policy is enacted, having abundant natural gas could be very helpful by making it cheaper for society to achieve climate goals...If natural gas is expensive, then it will be more costly to switch away from fuels that have higher greenhouse gas emissions, such as coal and oil. But keeping methane emissions low is essential to maximizing the potential benefits of natural gas.
If there are a lot of methane emissions, the positive benefits of using natural gas are mitigated; however...recent evidence suggests methane emissions may be higher than the EPA currently estimates, it’s not clear how this new information will affect those estimates...Reducing methane emissions is important, but even if methane emissions from natural gas systems are significantly higher than current EPA estimates, we did not find this significantly alters the impact of abundant natural gas on long-term national or global greenhouse gas emissions pathways.
The bottom line is that, with or without shale gas, we must have policies and regulations that specifically – and aggressively – lower all greenhouse gas emissions, and – as rapidly as possible – transition to a renewable energy future.

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