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Replacing coal with natural gas would do little for climate change

Source:  Copyright 2011, Washington Post
Date:  September 9, 2011
Original URL: Status ONLINE

The great hope among energy wonks is that natural gas is the short-term salve for our climate woes. After all, burning natural gas for electricity emits just half the carbon dioxide that burning coal does. Plus, the United States seems to have an abundance of gas, particularly in the Marcellus Shale, and low natural-gas prices are already prodding many electric utilities to retire their coal plants. That's why liberal groups like the Center for American Progress have dubbed natural gas a "bridge fuel,' to tide us over until better low-carbon technologies arrive.

But natural gas has come in for some sharp scrutiny of late. First, there was a study by Cornell ecologist Robert Howarth suggesting that natural gas was actually worse for the climate than coal when you take into account the methane leaks from shale-gas development. While that study has been rebutted by other analyses -- see, for instance, this new paper in Environment Research Letters -- it did rightly call ...

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