Analysis: U.S. Natural Gas Production Has Minimal Methane Impact

Natural gas production in the United States has a minimal impact on global methane emissions and an even smaller impact on greenhouse gas forcings, according to federal government data summarized by the Gas Technology Institute. The federal data show the carbon dioxide reduction benefits of natural gas power are not negated by methane emissions during natural gas production.

Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Center for Methane Research, and the Global Carbon Project reveal U.S. natural gas production is responsible for just 1.2% of global methane emissions. This translates to just 0.2% of global greenhouse gas forcings. Accordingly, if global temperatures rise 1 degree Celsius this century, U.S. natural gas production would account for 0.02 degrees of that warming.

Image courtesy of By HartmannValves - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Image courtesy of By HartmannValves – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

The growth in natural gas production is coming largely at the expense of coal power. Just a decade ago, coal powered more than twice as much U.S. electricity as natural gas. With natural gas power now less expensive than coal power, natural gas has surpassed coal as our leading source of electrical power production. Although the surge in U.S. natural gas production has a very minor impact on methane emissions, natural gas power produces just half as much carbon dioxide as coal power. Thus, the transformation of the U.S. power sector to natural gas is producing strong net benefits in reducing total greenhouse gas emissions.

The Heartland Institute, a public policy organization that is skeptical of global warming fears, has also noted the findings, presumably to defend low-cost natural gas against baseless environmental attacks.

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