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  • futureripplemovers futureripplemovers Feb 14, 2014 2:26 AM Flag

    Study: Natural gas may not be 'bridge fuel' to combat climate

    Study: Natural gas may not be 'bridge fuel' to combat climate

    By Laura Barron-Lopez

    The U.S. natural gas infrastructure has far more leaks than federal authorities previously reported, according to new findings.

    A study released Thursday by Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that while natural gas emits less carbon dioxide during combustion than other fossil fuels, the potential for leaks — which emit the more potent greenhouse gas methane — put a damper on its "climate benefits."

    President Obama, however, credited natural gas as a top factor in bringing the U.S. closer to energy independence during his State of the Union address.
    "One of the reasons why is natural gas, if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change," he said in his address.

    But the study's team of authors who reviewed over 200 reports found that emissions of methane are significantly higher than official estimates, with leaks from the natural gas system being one significant contributor.

    "However, because of the high global warming potential of methane, climate benefits from natural gas use depend on system leakage rates," the study states. "Some recent estimates of leakage have challenged the benefits of switching from coal to natural gas, a large near-term greenhouse gas reduction opportunity."

    Right now the EPA's best estimate is the the country's natural gas system leaks about 1.5 percent of gross production -- or 28 million tons of methane per year. The new study says there's a gap between that estimate and the actual measurements by roughly 14 trillion grams of methane.

    "This new technology is critical because if our policy is going to continue to focus on using gas as a “bridge fuel,” we need to double down our efforts to mitigate the leaks," said co-author Francis O'Sullivan of Stanford.

    While the gas system is leakier than thought, in the

 
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