U.S. EPA seriously underestimated importance of methane emissions, report finds

Methane molecules
Source: DollarPhotoClub

Energy and Emission Control Technologies has published the review “Methane emissions and climatic warming risk from hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development: implications for policy.”

As corresponding author Professor Robert Howarth says “The US Environmental Protection Agency has seriously underestimated the importance of methane emissions in general and from shale gas in particular. As a result, the US government has been stating that total greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in the US have been steadily declining since 2008 (which they attribute to switching shale gas for coal for electricity generation, although other studies say the economic downturn has been more important).

“With better accounting for methane, the new paper by Howarth concludes that total greenhouse gas emissions have actually been rising rapidly over most of this time, and in fact rising at their most rapid rate in decades. Methane now accounts for 40% of total US greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector.

“The rapid rise is due to shale gas and shale oil development, and has globally important consequences that are becoming increasing critical as the average temperature of the Earth, compared to the pre-industrial baseline, is expected to double in the next 15 years.”

Professor Howarth continues “methane emissions make it a disastrous idea to consider shale gas as a bridge fuel, letting society continue to use fossil fuels over the next few decades. Rather, we must move as quickly as possible away from all fossil fuels — shale gas, conventional natural gas, coal, and oil — and towards a truly sustainable energy future using 21st Century technologies and wind and solar power.”

As Dr Adolfo Perujo, Editor-in-Chief, explains “As some of the reviewers expressed, the paper challenges the general accepted concept that the introduction of natural gas will reduce the environmental impact of the fuel mix (global warming). The author indicates that this might not be the best way forward but rather to address the short and medium term emissions of methane more than anything else (CO2), because of its warming potential. Further, the author presents information that is imperative in understanding the environmental and health implications of shale gas development. The author’s stand will be controversial but I think is worthwhile to open it up to a wider audience (public at large)”

Energy and Emission Control Technologies is an international, peer-reviewed, open access online journal publishing original research, reviews, editorials and commentaries on developing technologies to optimize energy production and control of emissions.

Dove Medical Press Ltd is a privately held company specializing in the publication of Open Access peer-reviewed journals across the broad spectrum of science, technology and especially medicine.

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