Thursday, May 15, 2014

Can shale gas lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions?

Some energy analysts say that increased shale gas production can lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions because natural gas produces less greenhouse gas emissions as compared to coal, so swapping coal fired power plants with natural gas fired plants would have positive impact on climate change.

This can be only partially true, because cheap and readily available natural gas will likely become a major stumbling block to renewable energy sources as well because natural gas, regardless of the fact that it emits less greenhouse emissions than coal, still emits significant share of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. What this means is that shale gas can only help our climate with proper policies, the ones that also promote higher use of renewable energy sources.

The truth is pretty simple, namely that natural gas production and consumption has significantly higher emissions than not just renewable energy sources but also nuclear power.

Some other factor also needs to be carefully examined here and this is the entire process of shale gas production. What policy makers must not forget is that extracting, processing and transporting the fuel can result in emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas lot more potent than carbon dioxide. The precise level of these methane emissions is still uncertain, with extensive study yet to be performed and published.

The policy makers need to realize that the increased shale gas production can also lead to displacement of zero-emission sources such as renewable energy sources and nuclear energy. Therefore, the right energy policy in terms of being aimed at the reduction of harmful greenhouse gases needs to find the way to successfully implement both clean energy sources and shale gas, without the displacement of any kind. What is also very important  is also the fact that methane emissions from shale gas production need to be kept low in order to maximize the potential benefits of natural gas.