While clamping down on coal emissions with their new initiative to address climate change, it looks like the Obama administration is embracing natural gas extraction instead.
That means fracking, the controversial recovery method that’s driving America’s natural gas boom, will continue.
THe EPA says natural gas power plants emit just half the emissions as coal ones.
The agency also recently reduced its estimates of natural gas production’s fugitive emissions — basically, CO2 leaks — by 20%, as the AP’s Kevin Begos reported in April.
But the revisions came in part from accounting for tighter pollution controls the industry said it had installed. Begos said the agency conducted no independent field tests of actual emissions. And he quotes the lead author of the study that first brought fugitive emissions to public consciousness, Cornell ecology professor Robert Howarth, as being sceptical of the revisions.
Still, the administration seems fully on board with the EPA’s conclusions: Here’s the key section, where the administration discusses promoting natural gas production abroad:
Burning natural gas is about one-half as carbon-intensive as coal, which can make it a critical “bridge fuel” for many countries as the world transitions to even cleaner sources of energy. Toward that end, the Obama Administration is partnering with states and private companies to exchange lessons learned with our international partners on responsible development of natural gas resources.
And it wants to promote wider industrial natural gas usage:
Going forward, we will promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production and encourage the development of a global market for gas. Since heavy-duty vehicles are expected to account for 40 per cent of increased oil use through 2030, we will encourage the adoption of heavy duty natural gas vehicles as well.
This comes on the heels of a new study, published Monday June 24 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found strong evidence production wells may have leaked natural gas into water supplies in some cases in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale.
The study’s author, Rob Jackson of Duke University, previously told us he believes drilling has gotten way out ahead of the science.
The EPA’s mega-study on the impact of fracking won’t be published until 2016, but it looks like the natural gas boom is here to stay, even without thorough understanding of its environmental impacts.