Gas Industry Cites Decreasing CO2, Forgets About Increasing Methane

Maybe you've seen the headlines over the last couple of days. US Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions reached an historical 20 year low in the first quarter of 2012. The Federal Energy Administration attributed this decline to three factors: a mild winter, less travel, and gas-powered utility plants replacing coal-fired ones. Whereas coal was producing about 50% of America's electricity in 2005, it's only contributing 34% now, with most of that slack now being taken up by gas-generated electricity.

Gas industry representatives were quick to take credit for the reduction and use it has proof of how climate-friendly natural gas is. But they forgot something important when they did that. They didn't weigh the increase in methane releases caused by gas mining against the decrease in CO2 pollution. Methane doesn't have the lifespan of CO2 in the atmosphere, but pound per pound in the short-term, it's 25 times more potent in its climate change impact. According to climate scientist Michael Mann of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, “We may be reducing our CO2 emissions, but it is possible that we’re actually increasing the greenhouse gas problem with methane emissions.”

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