Natural gas might enjoy a reputation as “the cleaner-burning fossil fuel,” but unburned natural gas is actually a huge problem for the environment, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
“When natural gas escapes unburned, as it often does during production and distribution, it is a big troublemaker,” the article states. “Its essential component, methane, is particularly pernicious—a greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide over 20 years as it dissipates.”
The Times wrote that the global effort against climate change and the reputation of natural gas rest on the ability of the natural gas industry to get leaks under control. The American natural gas industry lets enough natural gas escape each year to meet the heating and cooking needs of about seven million homes annually, the article states. “That runaway gas also creates about the same short-term climate impact as 240 coal-fired power plants, according to the Environmental Defense Fund,” The Times wrote.
Federal regulators have begun cracking down, with the Environmental Protection Agency recently announcing the first federal regulations aimed at curbing the escape of methane from new wells and equipment by requiring emissions-control devices and regular monitoring. The agency is now collecting data on natural gas operations across the country and could issue broader methane control regulations in the next few years, the article states.
Some current estimates say that 2 percent or more of all natural gas produced in the United States is leaking into the atmosphere, according to The Times. Industry insiders predict that some producers will quit rather than incur the expenses necessary to rein in methane emissions. “It’s going to be extremely onerous, and it’s going to put a lot of people out of business,” Patrick M. Montalban, chief executive of Mountainview Energy, told The Times.
To read the New York Times article, click here.
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