Published on September 16th, 2011 | by Nicholas Brown8
Study: Natural Gas May Not Provide Immediate Global Warming Improvement
Natural gas is considered an important part of the energy mix by many on the right and left because it can not only provide baseload power (generate a consistent amount of electricity reliably all the time), but natural gas can be used to fuel peaking and backup power plants which can be started quickly enough to backup malfunctioned power plants and avoid long blackouts in the event of a power shortage.
Natural gas can also beneficial to solar and wind power plants because it is a low carbon emissions source of electricity that can back up those power plants during low wind and cloudy periods instead of the more expensive gasoline which also pollutes the air more.
A study, however, states that replacing 50% of coal’s electricity supply with natural gas would not help global warming much due to the fact that natural gas power plants do not emit the significant amount of sulfur dioxide that coal power plants do, and sulfur dioxide is believed by some to cool the planet.
I cannot attest how helpful or harmful sulfur dioxide is where climate change is concerned, but it is a toxic substance.
Another issue with natural gas is the fact that it is 95% methane, and methane is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, which has a global warming potential of 1.
Methane, however, has a much shorter half life in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. I will try to confirm how much methane is released into the atmosphere due to natural gas production, though (and update this post when I can do so).
The study, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), will be published next month in Climatic Change Letters.