Researchers from New York’s Cornell University released a shocking report yesterday that shows that the shale gas recovered through hydraulic fracturing operations is more devastating to the air than the burning of coal to create energy.
The Cornell study confirmed that the shale gases resulting from “fracking” operations will created more greenhouse gases than the burning of coal over the next two decades. With total methane emssions factored in, natural gas extracted from shale rock formations actually has the greatest climate impact of all the fossil fuels.
This belies the common belief that natural gas is much cleaner compared to other fossil fuels and should be exploited as a bridge fuel until the U.S. develops cleaner alternative fuel sources such as wind, solar, and biomass.
The peer-reviewed study was leaked by The Hill, a Washington-based political newspaper and website. The studies authors are Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environment biology; Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering; and Renee Santoro, a research technician specializing in biofuels. The full Cornell paper will be published in the journal Climatic Change later this week.
“Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years… These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as great as those from conventional gas. The higher emissions from shale gas occur at the time wells are hydraulically fractured—as methane escapes from flow-back return fluids—and during drill out following the fracturing.”
Most hydraulic fracturing activities in New York have been suspended under and executive order by former Governor David A. Paterson. The order, executed in December 2010, directs the State’s Department of Environment Conservation to conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale.
Paterson issued the Executive Order after he vetoed legislation that would place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Permits for hydraulic fracturing can not be issued until the the DEC’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), is completed, which create a de-facto moratorium.
The DEC report was supposed to be completed on or around June 1, with at least 30 days for public comment, now the agency says it will not be finished until late summer.