Natural Gas: A "Clean" Fossil Fuel

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

As the debate over climate change and energy policy legislation heats up, the natural gas industry and its allies in Congress have taken to describing natural gas as a "clean bridge fuel" to a clean energy future, and are promoting various federal policies to encourage the wider use of natural gas.

Compared to the combustion of coal as a boiler fuel, natural gas is indeed a "cleaner" fuel. However, it is important to bear in mind that:

  1. according to the Energy Information Administration, 20% of America's present greenhouse gas emissions derive from the combustion of natural gas, and
  2. the extraction of natural gas can and does impose severe harmful impacts on air and water quality, the viability of wildlife habitats and wildlife populations, and the quality of the environment in areas where natural gas extraction activities take place.

The bottom line is: if our national energy policies encourage the wider use of natural gas to meet America's future energy needs, production of natural gas must be "done right."

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