Methane Gas Leaks Undermine Shift to Natural Gas

Natural-gas wells such as this one in Colorado are increasingly important to the US energy supply. Credit: David Zalubowski/AP Photo

Scientists report that there are alarmingly high methane emissions from oil and gas fields, undermining the environmental benefits of natural gas, which is transforming the current US energy system.

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As Much as One-Third of Greenhouses Gases Come from Agriculture

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One-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions stem from the global food system, which encompasses the manufacturing of fertilizer, to food storage and packaging. These figures are from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which is a partnership of 15 research centers from around the world.

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Carbon Absorption by Plants Limited by the Abundance of Soil Nutrients

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As carbon dioxide levels continue to climb in the Earth’s atmosphere, most current climate models project that the world’s oceans and trees will keep soaking up more than half of the extra CO2. However, researchers have spotted a problem with the capacity of plants to absorb more CO2. It’s now expected that this capacity will be much lower than previously thought, due to the limitations in soil nutrients.

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Natural Gas Mining Could Leak Enough Methane, No Longer Considered as Clean

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Natural gas, which is often perceived as a clean alternative to coal and oil, can be advantageous since it produces fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than other fossil fuels. This was one of the reasons why there was a large scale shift to natural gas in the 1990s. However, to release the gas, engineers must split rock by injecting a high-pressured fluid, a process which is called hydraulic fracking.

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