“Natural” Gas Fails the Sniff Test

by Phil Radford

June 27, 2011

hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas

Top decisionmakers in Washington seem to have forgotten that “natural” gas is a fossil fuel, with some of the same damning negatives as coal and oil.

For instance, unlike renewables, “natural” gas is an energy source we will exhaust – possibly sooner than previously thought. Let’s not forget that the recent rise of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) couldn’t have happened if we hadn’t nearly exhausted easily extracted gas supplies already. And now it turns out that this fracking boon may be partly a matter of industry hype.

The extraction of natural gas – especially via fracking – is incredibly harmful to the environment and people’s health. If you aren’t alarmed by increasing instances of flammable tapwater from methane leaks caused by drillers messing with geology, then maybe diesel and cancerous chemicals in the water will sound a few bells.

Unfortunately, Congress exempted the “natural” gas industry from practically every type of pollution law, and there are no plans to remove this special treatment. Now, the EPA and DOE want to study the damages of fracking, a little after the fact. But one thing they aren’t studying is whether fracked gas can legitimately be called a transition fuel from coal to renewables. Burning gas creates half the CO2 of coal combustion, but a recent study shows that fracked gas may release so much of a worse global warming pollutant (methane) into the air that it cancels out any benefit to the climate.

One thing is certain about the “natural” gas industry. They need no support from politicians.

Phil Radford is Greenpeace USA’s Executive Director.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.