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Report Cites Natural Gas for Reduced Emissions, But Cautions Against Longterm Solution to Climate Change

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A natural gas production site in the Loyalsock State Forest, Lycoming County. A new report says replacing coal with natural gas as a power source has helped reduce U.S. emissions. But it cautioned that methane releases at the wellhead need to be curtailed.

Increased domestic use of natural gas as a replacement for other fossil fuels such as coal or oil will continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s not the panacea for solving climate change. That’s according to a report out today from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The study advocates policies to increase the use of natural gas in manufacturing, transportation, and power generation.

“The expanded use of natural gas—as a replacement for coal and petroleum—can help our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near- to mid-term, even as the economy grows. In 2013, energy sector emissions are at the lowest levels since 1994, in part because of the substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels, particularly coal. Total U.S. emissions are not expected to reach 2005 levels again until sometime after 2040.”

But the report cautions against using natural gas as a longterm solution to reduce emissions, and stresses the need to develop wind, solar and nuclear energy sources.

Authors of the report say methane emissions resulting from the production of natural gas need to be curtailed or risk offsetting the gains in reduced levels of carbon dioxide at power plants.

“It is important to better understand and more accurately measure the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production and use in order to achieve emissions reductions along the entire natural gas value chain.”

Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, releasing less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and can escape from the wellhead during gas production.

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