By itself, abundant shale gas unlikely to alter climate projections

May 14, 2014
Credit: Petr Kratochvil/Public Domain

A Duke policy analysis appearing in Environmental Science and Technology finds that if natural gas is abundant and less expensive, it will encourage greater consumption of gas and less of coal, renewables and nuclear power. The net effect on the climate will depend on whether the greenhouse gas emissions from producing and consuming natural gas—including carbon dioxide and methane - are lower or higher than emissions avoided by reducing the use of other energy sources.

While natural gas can reduce greenhouse emissions when it is substituted for higher-emission energy sources, abundant shale gas is not likely to substantially alter total emissions without policies targeted at , a pair of Duke researchers find.

If natural gas is abundant and less expensive, it will encourage greater natural gas consumption and less of fuels such as coal, renewables and nuclear power. The net effect on the climate will depend on whether the from natural gas—including and methane—are lower or higher than emissions avoided by reducing the use of those other energy sources.

Most evidence indicates that natural gas as a substitute for coal in electricity production, gasoline in transport, and electricity in buildings decreases greenhouse gases. But natural gas production and consumption has higher emissions than renewables and .

"Over the range of scenarios that we examine, abundant natural gas by itself is neither a climate hero nor a climate villain," said Richard Newell, Gendell Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics and director of the Duke University Energy Initiative.

The findings are published in a special issue of Environmental Science and Technology, "Understanding the Risks of Unconventional Shale Gas Development."

Natural gas from shale formations is favored by proponents as a cleaner, inexpensive replacement for fuels such as coal and oil that emit more carbon dioxide and local air pollutants. But extracting, processing and transporting the fuel can result in emissions of methane—itself a potent greenhouse gas. The precise level of these is uncertain, and extensive research on the subject is under way.

"We find that so far increased natural gas has mostly taken the place of coal, but looking forward there also may be increased consumption for sectors such as industry, as well as some degree of displacement of zero-emission sources such as renewables and nuclear," said Daniel Raimi, associate in research at the Energy Initiative. "The net effect on U.S. appears likely to be small in the absence of policies specifically directed at greenhouse gas mitigation."

Newell and Raimi draw on a range of evidence, including modeling of two hypothetical futures: one where natural gas production and prices follow a "reference case" scenario, and another where increased shale gas production lowers prices and encourages increased consumption. They also account for a range of methane emissions scenarios, ranging from 25 percent below to 50 percent above the levels estimated by the U.S. Environmental Production Agency.

"The fact that increased doesn't have a huge climate impact on its own doesn't mean it's not important. If broad climate policy is enacted, having abundant natural gas could be very helpful by making it cheaper for society to achieve climate goals," Newell said. "If natural gas is expensive, then it will be more costly to switch away from fuels that have higher greenhouse gas emissions, such as coal and oil. But keeping methane emissions low is essential to maximizing the potential benefits of natural gas."

The climate benefits of natural gas are reduced if there are a lot of methane emissions, but while "recent evidence suggests methane emissions may be higher than the EPA currently estimates, it's not clear how this new information will affect those estimates," Raimi said. "Reducing methane emissions is important, but even if methane emissions from natural gas systems are significantly higher than current EPA estimates, we did not find this significantly alters the impact of abundant on long-term national or global pathways."

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Steve 200mph Cruiz
4.2 / 5 (10) May 14, 2014
We need to end our dependance on fossil fuels, there is no reasonable argument in favor of them other than "It's cheap."
Even if you don't understand the mechanism of climate change, renewables are a much better investment than fossil fuels (which is kind of a joke to begin with). The reason fracking has become so big now even though it has been around for decades is that the price of the gas has risen to the point it has become economically viable to go through the trouble of dissolving shale to get the gas. In the US most of our major reserves have been tapped so this is all that's left, like a drunk trying to suck the booze out of the carpet instead of quitting the hooch for a few weeks to get a job.
What's the worst that'll happen? We'll clean the environment, create jobs, and develop technology and therefor the economy (plus help lower the effects of climate change)?
Caliban
4 / 5 (4) May 14, 2014
Incidentally,

"The fact that increased shale gas doesn't have a huge climate impact on its own doesn't mean it's not important. If broad climate policy is enacted, having abundant natural gas could be very helpful by making it cheaper for society to achieve climate goals," Newell said. "If natural gas is expensive, then it will be more costly to switch away from fuels that have higher greenhouse gas emissions, such as coal and oil. But keeping methane emissions low is essential to maximizing the potential benefits of natural gas.


This is precisely the reason why it is absolutely critical that we fast-track export of fracked NG-
it will tighten supply domestically, and drive up prices across the board, which is essential in order to sustain maximum profitability over maximum time.

We wouldn't want to let the poor frackers go bust peddling their cheap, plentiful "bridge-fuel", much less risk letting enough time pass for the environmental harm to become clear and actionable.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4.2 / 5 (5) May 14, 2014
Caliban, home slice G bro dude...
That is not important..
Oil is becoming out dated; the future has too many ends to get with that crap. I understand the importance oil has on the economy. It's awesome paying jobs. But it's not what the future can be based of off because it is simply non renewable`.
Caliban
4.4 / 5 (7) May 14, 2014
Also, all sarcasm aside, one of the prime benefits to the industry that this study provides(assuming that this article is fully representative of it) is that it has blandly ignored virtually all the risks associated with fracked gas development, with the lone exception of methane emissions, which the authors raise as an issue --and then reject as any kind of significant threat.

The Fracking industry and Big Carbon shills will be running with this story beginning with this evening's "news" shows, and even earlier for the radio spam outlets, claiming that fracked NG is ever-so-safe, cheap, cheap, cheap, and can't exacerbate Global Warming(even if such a ludicrous thing were to exist in the first place), so why should the gubberment forcibly conscript Private Property(aka Wealth) via taxation in order to subsidize economically nonviable renewable energy development.

In fact, NG is so cheap and safe, any tax --at all-- on wealth should be eliminated for all time.

Revving Echo Camber...
Caliban
4.2 / 5 (5) May 14, 2014

Seriously--

"Richard Newell, Gendell Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics and director of the Duke U. Energy Initiative, and Daniel Raimi, associate in research at the Energy Initiative"
--Are prolly rolling in free hookers and cocaine in some Vegas hotel, courtesy of their staunchest supporters, Big Carbon.

And here's a perfect example of the mindset that these Vampire Parasites hope to inculcate in the minds of the Weak Middle:

Caliban, home slice G bro dude...
That is not important..
Oil is becoming out dated; the future has too many ends to get with that crap. I understand the importance oil has on the economy. It's awesome paying jobs. But it's not what the future can be based of off because it is simply non renewable`.


When I consider that the above is pretty representative of the general level of "awareness" extant in the good ol' US of A, it certainly makes our chances appear bleak, indeed.

Yo, Steve 200mph Cruiz --dude-- are ya feelin' me brah?

Shootist
1.4 / 5 (9) May 14, 2014
We need to end our dependance on fossil fuels, there is no reasonable argument in favor of them other than "It's cheap."


And cheap is good enough. 100 1000 megawatt fission plants in New American wouldn't hurt either.

Anyway take your whine to the Chinese and Indian, North America and EU are a fart in a windstorm compared to their aggregate.

"The polar bears will be fine". - Dyson, Freeman Dyson.
Caliban
5 / 5 (7) May 14, 2014
We need to end our dependance on fossil fuels, there is no reasonable argument in favor of them other than "It's cheap."


And cheap is good enough. 100 1000 megawatt fission plants in New American wouldn't hurt either.

Anyway take your whine to the Chinese and Indian, North America and EU are a fart in a windstorm compared to their aggregate.

"The polar bears will be fine". - Dyson, Freeman Dyson.


And riding along on the shortbus with you, and -Dyson, Freeman Dyson, shooty.

Which is extraordinarily sad, since it's in no way the Fine Polar Bears' fault that you and -Dyson, Freeman Dyson are

Morons.

rwinners
5 / 5 (3) May 14, 2014
A Duke policy analysis appearing in Environmental Science and Technology finds that if natural gas is abundant and less expensive, it will encourage greater consumption of gas and less of coal, renewables and nuclear power.

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Over time... how much is debatable... this would be true. However the present trend of burning NG in place of coal here in the US does not offset the burning of the million tons of coal we are sending to Asia to fuel the development of infrastructure there. Unfortunately, the NIMBY attitude doesn't work at all in place where the winds blow incessantly...