Um… uh oh. All this talk about how natural gas is going to save the human species from certain climate change should go quiet.
According to Dr. Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University, natural gas is not going to be the saving grace of the climate issues facing us. Howarth has concluded that shale (fracking) and conventional natural gas have a “larger greenhouse gas footprint than do coal or oil, especially for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating.” And since that’s what it’s mostly used for, this isn’t good. At all.
By taking a look at the data for both methane (gas) and carbon dioxide (oil and coal) emissions over the last 20 years, Howarth has this to say in a study published in Energy Science & Engineering:
“While emissions of carbon dioxide are less from natural gas than from coal and oil, methane emissions are far greater. Methane is such a potent greenhouse gas that these emissions make natural gas a dangerous fuel from the standpoint of global warming over the next several decades. Society should wean ourselves from all fossil fuels and not rely on the myth that natural gas is an acceptable bridge fuel to a sustainable future.”
In simpler words, natural gas is worse than coal and oil. Uh oh.
This all goes along the same lines of what I have been saying for years: there is no “better” way to continue to burn things in order to make energy. Period. If you burn something, you emit something, and whatever you are emitting is going to cause problems. In addition, if you want to burn something, you have to get something, and anything flammable under the surface is becoming harder and harder to get to (thus, fracking).
The rising methane emissions from our current fuel sources is not only coming from burning of oils and gases, though. It’s also coming from the melting permafrost, which is now releasing methane at higher rates than ever before. All the organic matter stored in the frozen tundra for millions of years is now being exposed and is starting to decay, releasing methane and CO2 into the atmosphere. So those melting glaciers you see on TV every couple days? It’s not just that they are melting; they are releasing toxic gases that help accelerate climate change. And the carbon currently stored in ice is way more than is even in our entire atmosphere; the more the ice melts, the more we’re screwed.
We can continue to allow “the man” to try to fool us in to believing that natural gas is much better than oil, but it’s just not true. We have to stand up and fight those companies trying to frack in our backyards, if not because we like to drink nontoxic water then because the emissions from those gases are worse than the coal and oil they are trying to replace. Solar and wind are the only ways forward (sorry, my nuclear friends) and the sooner we implement the world over, the better. At least it might put off the inevitable for a few more years…