One of the many arguments that the rabidly anti-fracking, eco-radical crowd have been using to try and discredit hydraulic fracturing as a welcome boon to both our environment and our economy is the claim that the process itself leaks an unacceptable amount of methane into the atmosphere. Methane, they insist, is an especially potent greenhouse gas, so that on net start-to-finish evaluation, natural gas really isn’t any cleaner than coal and those studies about natural gas contributing so hugely to the United States’ recently decreased carbon emissions can’t really be that accurate.
Unfortunately for them, a brand new study concludes that fracking actually releases much less methane into the atmosphere than opponents as well as the EPA previously suggested. The EPA did revise their emissions estimates downward in April, but this new study takes things down another huge notch, via National Journal:
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science concludes that hydraulic fracturing–the controversial technique behind the nation’s recent oil and gas boom–doesn’t appear to contribute significantly to global warming, as many environmental groups have warned.
… Many environmental groups fear that the process can contaminate underground water supplies–and also that it releases underground stores of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that can have 20 times more impact on global warming than carbon dioxide. …
The White House and EPA “have expressed great interest in the findings,” said David Allen, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Texas and the lead author of the study. Allen has been invited to brief EPA and other administration officials on the research. …
The study concluded that the majority of hydraulically fractured natural-gas wells have surface equipment that reduces on-the-ground methane emissions by 99 percent, although it also found that elsewhere on fracking rigs, some valves do allow methane to escape at levels 30 percent higher than those set by EPA. Overall, however, the study concludes that total methane emissions from fracking are about 10 percent lower than levels set by EPA.
The White House is expressing “great interest” because they’ve lately been coming to terms with accepting natural gas for what it is — a cleaner and economical fuel source that has helped to both reduce our carbon emissions and improve our GDP more than any relentlessly-subsidized and wildly wishful “renewable” venture than any big-government greenies have ever cooked up. They’re still largely referring to natural gas a “bridge fuel,” as if this is just a stopgap measure on our merry way to their wind-and-solar delusions of grandeur, but President Obama has even taken to talking up natural gas in his endless economic pivots.
The timing of the study is especially good for the White House, and I bet that they’ll seize on it with vigor, because they’re really hoping that natural gas will help mitigate the potential for “necessarily skyrocketing” when they introduce their de facto regulatory ban on new coal plants as early as this week. His otherwise lame mega-pander of a ‘climate change action plan’ could really use the help.