The same Office of Fossil Energy (FE) that authorizes LNG exports now reports that methane leaks from fracking wells and pipelines are at least as bad for the climate as CO2 from coal. Add to that the destruction of private property rights, wetlands and forests, and overuse and contamination of groundwater, and fracked methane is a disaster. Plus it diverts resources that could be used to go straight to solar and wind power.
Steven Mufson wrote for the Washington Post 9 June 2014, Exporting U.S. natural gas isn’t as “clean” as you think,
The report is titled “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas from the United States.”
It says the benefits of cleaner, more efficient combustion of natural gas are largely offset by methane leakage in U.S. production and pipelines and by methane leaks and energy used in the process of liquefying and transporting the LNG. In the case of shipping LNG from the U.S. gulf coast to Shanghai, the greenhouse gas benefits could in some cases be completely offset by those factors when measured over a 20-year period, the report says.
The Energy Department report was released May 30 when the department announced that it would no longer issue preliminary approvals for LNG export permits that are needed for shipments to countries without free trade agreements with the United States.
Critics of LNG exports say that the report buttresses their arguments. Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action, which is trying to block a Dominion Resources-owned LNG export terminal in Cove Point, Md., said that the report would cast LNG exports in an even worse light if it used what he called more realistic leakage estimates for U.S. production and pipeline transportation.
“If their analysis is overlaid with more realistic foreign and domestic leakage assumptions, it becomes clear that the immediate climate impacts of LNG would be much worse for the climate than coal if exports began today,” he said.
The Wapo story spells out why methane is bad:
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 85 times as potent as carbon dioxide when measured over 20 years and 30 times more potent over the 100-year time frame often used by climate change experts. The Energy Department report gave estimates under both.
The result: A range of outcomes over 20 years that would on average save about 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from local coal but which could in other cases produce more.
The choice is not coal vs. fracked methane (or nuclear). The choice is dirty thermal power generation vs. clean, fuel-less, job-producing solar and wind power. Solar will win, simply because it’s already cheaper than any other source of power and keeps getting cheaper, pushing solar deployments up faster every year, like compound interest.
No unnecessary Sabal Trail pipeline that will be an unused gash through our lands when solar is the main source of U.S. power in less than a decade. No pipeline. Solar power now!