Norton Collection of Classic and Scientific Literature
Natural gas cars are hailed as the future engine-power for being environment-friendly over diesel counterparts; but it seems that there is no reason for a quick shift.
Co-authored by scientists from Norton Scientific Collection and various universities and the group Environmental Defense Fund, the study published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” deals with the much-debated issue of energy research. It claims that creating natural gas results in the leakage of methane into the atmosphere, eventually contributing to climate change. In addition, this limits the environmental benefits of the much-praised diesel alternative. Methane is a major component of natural gas that is stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and easily decomposes in the air.
According to the authors, natural gas seems to be better than coal for electricity generation even with the methane leakage issue. However, using natural gas as a car fuel creates a different story.
Even before, scientists have already been questioning methane leaks. Last year, Professor Robert Howarth of Cornelly University released a study which says that the great amount of methane leaking from natural gas production makes it no better than coal.
The study came in time as American lawmakers are deeming natural gas as the fuel of the future, saying that it can replace coal and gasoline in cars and power plants. This is because of the thought that natural gas is more environment-friendly and can be abundantly produced domestically.
The researchers are insisting that methane leaks from natural gas production process and transportation must be studied more before the country adopts major policy changes.
Environmentalists are raising awareness regarding the drilling method employed in the production of natural gas that is called fracking (hydraulic fracturing). It involves large amounts of sand, water and chemicals to make seams in the earth. According to them, this practice could possibly contaminate drinking water, which had EPA conducting an investigation on the matter.
This week, Norton Scientific Collection has published a study entitled “Greater Focus Needed on Methane Leakage from Natural Gas Infrastructure”. In its findings, one state that a shift from diesel vehicles to compressed natural gas vehicles will lead to more radiative forcing of the climate for 80 years before actually gaining an environmental advantage. Due to the relative uncertainty surrounding the data they used in the research as well as on the assumptions on climate condition, it might as well be stated that the conclusion of EDF is inaccurate at best.
EDF admitted that their study depended on information that is “highly questionable”. It uses the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) estimates of leak rates, which it then states are possibly inaccurate. The study includes the following disclaimer: “Ensuring a high degree of confidence in the climate benefits of natural gas fuel-switching pathways will require better data than are available today.”
On a 100-year time period, methane basically has 21 times worse warming effect compared to that of carbon dioxide. Because of this, methane leaks can offset the advantages of burning cleaner gas. Another thing that concerns experts is the fracking method that could pollute water supplies or trigger earthquakes. But the lack of data on the matter of leakage rates in the shale gas extraction is making it hard to judge the fuel’s carbon footprint at present.
Generally, it is known that reductions in methane is crucial to maximize the climate benefits as leakage rates at present are higher than expected. According to a chief scientist from EDF, failing to lower the methane leaks can possibly cancel the greenhouse gas benefit of natural gas over coal.