Shale gas, a promising clean energy solution, faces a major challenge from a new study that concludes it may have a heavier greenhouse gas footprint than coal.
A Washington consensus formed over the past couple years about what the immediate energy future for the country might look. Recent discoveries and technical advances in extracting gas from shale rock formations had analysts and politicians thinking that they could simply frack their way out of our nation's energy problems. After all, natural gas plants are fairly inexpensive to build, the resources were domestic, and burning gas has about half the carbon footprint of coal, so why not bet the near future of our nation's electric grid, gas proponents said.
But fracking, the nickname for hydraulic fracturing, the process by which inaccessible gas is made available, has always been a questionable environmental practice. Locals in areas where this particular type of resource extraction is occurring have sometimes called its "clean energy" status into question.
Now, The Hill reports that Bob Howarth, a Cornell ecologist and biogeochemist, will release a study declaring that the lifecycle emissions from shale gas development and combustion are worse than coal's. If verified by other scientific studies, the finding could force a major rethink of the use of shale gas as a tool in our kit to combat climate change.