The assumption that a switch from coal to natural gas would reduce US greenhouse gas emissions has turned out to be false, according to a study released Wednesday. In fact, such a change could even raise the emission of greenhouse gases as it discourages the use of carbon-free renewable energy. In recent times, the use of natural gas seemed to have reduced carbon dioxide emissions in the US but a new study discovered that, in the coming years, the use of natural gas will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. The researchers found that that use of natural gas may actually boost emissions from the power sector by up to 5 percent. The power sector accounts for about one-third of emissions in the country.
The issue of methane leakage during production of natural gas is another grave concern to the environment. Methane, the main constituent of natural gas, is itself a powerful greenhouse gas. Experts also found that even if little methane leakage occurs, natural gas cannot really help reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. However, some of the recent assumptions have been questioned, including the idea that people would use more energy as a result of cheap natural gas and inadvertently cancel the benefits.
Shearer, a scholar at UC Irvine and co-author of the new study on natural gas, said that a strong US policy that supports the growth of carbon-free renewable energy sources will help to solve the problem. Shearer concluded that “the biggest driver of emissions reductions” will be the strength of the climate policies that are created. Though there are efforts to cast natural gas as a lower-carbon and climate-friendly option due to its lower carbon footprint as compared to coal, studies show that emissions from fracked natural gas may be equal to or even higher than emissions from coal. Fracked natural gas is also known to cause cancer and pollute the atmosphere in many ways.
As of now, cutting carbonÂ pollutionÂ is the only way to preventÂ the horrendous effects of climate change. It has become crucial for the US to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) as it is the second largest emitter of carbon today.