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Natural gas won’t help save the planet, says new peer-reviewed report

Fracking is not a solution to climate change, reiterates new research. Creative Commons: Simon Fraser University, 2006

Fracking is not a solution to climate change, reiterates new research. Creative Commons: Simon Fraser University, 2006

A global fracking boom will not reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change, according to new peer-reviewed research in the journal Nature.

In fact an increase in fracking for natural gas is likely to increase carbon emissions as renewable energy will be squeezed out of the market due to price competition.

This would stifle the transition away from dirty fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources that must happen in order to contain global temperature rise to safe levels, warn the international team of researchers behind the report.

Whilst some supporters of fracking hail it as a ‘bridge fuel’ in the move away from dirty energy  the new report warns the expansion of natural gas would lead to continued fossil fuel domination of global energy markets.

As a result, carbon emissions would ultimately continue to rise, as burning natural gas still produces large amounts of carbon dioxide.

In addition to this, if natural gas were to become the dominant source of energy, greater amounts of methane – a particularly dangerous gas that produces 21 times more warming than carbon dioxide – would be leaking from drilling operations.

According to experts, the extra levels of methane would significantly impact climate change.

Indeed, many argue that natural gas production and consumption is just as high a level of greenhouse gas emissions as other fossil fuels, including coal.

The new report predicted that an unrestricted natural gas boom could actually increase carbon emissions by up to 11%.  It is suggested that the low price of energy could encourage the greater use of energy and disregard for energy efficiency measures.

Haewon McJeon, an economist at the US department of energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), lead the research for the said:

New technology could double or triple the global natural gas production by 2050. Greenhouse gas emissions would continue to grow in the absence of climate policies that promote lower carbon energy sources.

Another member of the team, Nico Bauer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change said:

The high hopes that natural gas will help reduce global warming because of lower emissions than coal turn out to be misguided because market effects dominate.

The additional gas supply boosts its deployment, but the substitution of coal is rather limited and it might also substitute low-emission renewable s and nuclear, according to our calculations.

The researchers emphasise that sound policy, not natural gas, is the best way to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.

They recommended that a global price be put on carbon pollution, and an international climate deal be agreed upon.

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