A Funny Thing Happened…

by Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs on October 6, 2016 - 11:59am

Studies Show Natural Causes, Not Industry, Increase Methane Emissions

A funny thing happened on the way to solving climate change…natural gas proved to be the most effective solution. Natural gas has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any government program, international treaty, subsidized renewable energy, or other orthodox measure to save the planet.

Because U.S. producers have unlocked a huge supply of natural gas, prices dropped, making switching from coal to natural gas electricity generation possible. Of course, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and others may one day discover the perfect alternative energy source that’s reliable, affordable, scalable, and without any environmental impacts, but until that day comes, natural gas has proven to be the most effective energy source at reducing greenhouse gas emissions while providing real 24/7 power.

The increased use of natural gas has enabled the United States to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states, “…the rapid deployment of hydraulic-fracturing and horizontal-drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas …is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.” The Energy Information Administration, International Energy Agency, Brookings Institution, the Breakthrough Institute and many others credit natural gas for delivering huge climate change reduction benefits.

But this story conflicts drastically with climate change orthodoxy exemplified by the environmental lobby and many politicians. These folks would have you believe that only their preferred renewable energy solutions, wind and solar specifically, count. Even hydroelectric power is not credited as a sanctified renewable energy resource, and carbon-free nuclear power is prevented by exaggerated, unfounded fear mongering. Big Green groups like the Sierra Club once touted natural gas until it started to grab more share of the electricity market and become a perceived threat to their preferred renewables that simply can’t compete on price, reliability, and environmental benefit.

Undeterred by the benefits that natural gas provides, Big Green has been sowing fear about methane as a strategy to stop natural gas production. By making very small methane emissions (between .38% and .42% according to the Environmental Defense Fund and University of Texas) seem huge and substantial, they lobby for regulations that will ultimately result in less American produced natural gas and hence, less climate change benefit. Methane emissions make up only about 9% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, industry methane emissions represent just over 1% of total U.S. emissions. By obfuscating and making natural gas seem like a culprit, Big Green lobbies to get the government to shut it down.

But a funny thing happened on the way to blaming the industry…the facts got in the way. Studies from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand and NOAA, and the University of London among others show that globally, increased methane emissions are not the result of oil and natural gas development, but rather come from wetlands, natural seepage and agriculture. In fact, the most recent NOAA study also shows how emissions from natural gas production have declined. But it’s much easier for environmental lobbyists to blame the industry that continually proves them wrong.