Here we go again.
Even as natural gas production in the United States increases and Washington gives it a warm embrace as a crucial component of America’s energy future, two coming studies try to poke holes in the clean-and-green reputation of natural gas. They suggest that the rush to develop the nation’s vast, unconventional sources of natural gas is logistically impractical and likely to do more to heat up the planet than mining and burning coal.I do sometimes wonder whether these studies and articles, etc., aren't in some way related to the coal industry. And I also kind of agree with the Nat Gas industry rep who's basically saying "WTF would we want to lose almost 8% of our product?"
The problem, the studies suggest, is that planet-warming methane, the chief component of natural gas, is escaping into the atmosphere in far larger quantities than previously thought, with as much as 7.9 percent of it puffing out from shale gas wells, intentionally vented or flared, or seeping from loose pipe fittings along gas distribution lines. This offsets natural gas’s most important advantage as an energy source: it burns cleaner than other fossil fuels and releases lower carbon dioxide emissions.
The idea here is not to defend the natural gas industry--they have plenty of their own problems associated with the rush to profits--it's rather to say that: 1.) methane escape is bad, really bad: but it dissipates quickly (as the article mentions), 2.) if we're going to increase the percentage of wind and solar capacity, we'd better build more natural gas power plants, because they're currently the only spinners that can react quickly enough to production and demand flutatuations, but finally, 3.) WE NEED GOOD REGULATIONS, here folks!
Studies like this are a good thing: they point out where potential problems lie. Pipelines have to be tightened all the way from the well to the house: there's also plenty of natural gas seeping out of urban area underground pipes. Inspections of private gas pipelines as well as infrastructure investment in the distributed networks in town. Plus, there are ways to use the gas coming directly out of the ground for local energy production to run the wells and pipeline compressors, rather than flaring the gas. These are economical (lots of companies are buying them right now), so it shouldn't be difficult to make a federal law requiring all wells currently flaring gas to be outfitted with local energy generation systems like this.