The environmental left is focusing on an outlier study on methane leaks to vilify natural gas’ impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Even if the outlier study were true – and the EPA and other studies were wrong – that would not be enough to darken natural gas’ bright future as a low-emission energy source.
A newly published paper asserts methane emissions amount to approximately 2.3% of gross American natural gas production, which is higher than EPA estimates of approximately 1.5%. As reported Saturday by the National Public Radio website, environmental activist groups like Environmental Defense Fund are using the study to assert natural gas’ low carbon dioxide emissions are being negated by higher-than-estimated methane emissions.
It is important to remember that other studies and the EPA – in both the Obama and Trump administrations – report lower methane emissions than those asserted by the outlier study. Even if emissions were higher, however, this would not negate the bright future of low-emission natural gas. When natural gas is burned to produce power, few greenhouse gas emissions result. Methane leaks occur in the recovery, transportation, and storage of natural gas. The natural gas industry has pledged to reduce methane leaks during these processes, and states like Oklahoma are putting new regulations on the books to reduce leaks even further.
Even in the unlikely event that the outlier study is correct and most of the others are wrong, methane leaks will continue to decline as industry and government prioritize reducing the leaks. Natural gas’ future as a low-emission energy source remains very bright.