The U.S. government has underestimated the affects that methane gas has on the environment. A new study says the emissions of the potent heat-trapping gas, methane, the main component of natural gas, are likely 50 percent higher than U.S. government had estimated in its official greenhouse gas inventory.
One of the biggest U.S. methane emitters is the natural gas industry. Many of the leaks come from drilling for oil and gas, refining plants and transport and distribution, such as pipelines.
The newly released information about the leak rate probably is large enough to negate the value of switching buses and trucks from diesel to natural gas, as governments and private companies have done to help slow the warming of the planet, the scientists concluded.
Methane, is a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas. It lasts just nine years in Earth’s atmosphere but is about 34 times more potent at trapping infrared radiation (the greenhouse effect) than carbon dioxide, which is more abundant and lasts longer.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, is the first effort to systematically assess and compare the findings of the existing published literature on North American methane emissions based on both “bottom-up” measurements of leaks from wells, pipelines, and other infrastructure, and “top-down” ambient air readings gathered from monitors in high towers and aircraft. We reported on one such top-down study in November: Natural Gas Reality Check: U.S. Methane Emissions May Exceed Estimates By 50.