The oil and gas industry didn’t invent the name. But it invented the myth of a clean fuel.
Natural gas’s reputation as a cleaner fuel than coal and oil risks being sullied by methane emissions.
Coal, oil, and gas are responsible for much more atmospheric methane, the super-potent warming gas, than previously known.
Clearly, the nation will continue to invest in renewable energies and green technologies. But it will also produce and export natural gas — underscored by the Russian war on Ukraine and the shortfalls now taking place in Europe. While some may grimace, natural gas will remain a prominent part of the American economy not just to generate electricity but also to assist in the manufacturing process.
You may have heard that natural gas stoves generate carbon dioxide by burning natural gas as a fuel. It makes sense.
But natural gas stoves also leak unburned methane into the air, a greenhouse gas that’s 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period. Researchers found that this leaking has a climate impact comparable to the carbon dioxide emissions from a half-million cars.
Burning natural gas produces carbon dioxide—but around 50% less than burning coal. The E.U. gets 22% of its energy from natural gas, and to meet its ambitious climate targets, the European Commission says it needs to cut use of the fuel by 37% by 2030. Meanwhile the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization, says the world needs to stop all investment in new gas and oil projects from 2021 onwards in order to keep on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Massive stores of natural gas that lie underneath big portions of the United States offer a cleaner source of electricity to a country that relies heavily on coal, but producing all that gas also can pump lots of pollution into the air.
America’s coal-burning power plants are shutting down at a rapid pace, forcing electric utilities to face the next big climate question: Embrace natural gas, or shift aggressively to renewable energy?
You see, all those arguments for natural gas that seemed so compelling during the Obama years have fallen apart. It’s now clear that if the world is to meet the climate targets it promised in Paris, natural gas, like coal, must be deliberately and rapidly phased out. There’s no time for a bridge. And clean alternatives are ready.
It’s a dubious distinction. Routine flaring gives the industry a black eye.
It’s no substitute for shifting to clean electricity.
Natural gas is displacing coal, which could help fight climate change because burning it produces fewer carbon emissions. But producing and transporting natural gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas that also contributes to climate change. How big is the methane problem.
The focus on possible health risks from stoves is part of the broader campaign by environmentalists to kick gas out of buildings to fight climate change. Commercial and residential buildings account for about 13% of heat-trapping emissions, mainly from the use of gas appliances.
It’s bad for you, and the environment. If you can afford to avoid it, you probably should.