U.S. emissions of methane, a potent heat trapping greenhouse gas and the primary ingredient in natural gas, may be 500 percent higher than federal estimates, reports a team of Harvard and other researchers, according to an article in USA Today.
The article states that methane emissions from natural gas production may be almost five times higher than calculated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Anna Michalak, co-author of the study and a faculty member of the Carnegie Institution of Science’s Department of Global Ecology, says the study of the continental USA combines an unprecedented amount of data, taken by federal agencies from the tops of telecommunication towers, with newer statistical tools and meteorological models to calculate how much methane is actually in the atmosphere and where it probably came from.
“This top-down approach is notably different from the EPA's bottom-up estimates, which calculate emissions based on the amount of methane typically released per cow or per unit of coal or natural gas sold,” the article states.
Co-author Steven Wofsy, an atmospheric and environmental professor at Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, said researchers don’t know why there is such a discrepancy between their observations and the EPA’s reporting. It may be that the EPA is not measuring every possible source, such as broken natural gas pipes that are leaking methane, he said.
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