Shale Gas Can Be More Disastrous Than Coal if Not Controlled

Source: New York Times

By New York Times

May 01, 2014

According to recent debate, the stance on energy still varies greatly. While some people are of the belief that natural gas is the newest and best thing that can do no wrong, others are not shy about voicing their sheer disgust.

The oil and gas executives pride themselves on this new energy source praising the abundance of natural gas that is released from underground shale deposits, and is extracted from the earth by a combination of horizontal and hydraulic fracturing.

But while natural gas offers alternatives to oil and gas, it is not free from considerations.

Yes, natural gas lowers energy costs, creates new jobs and boosts domestic manufacturing industries in the U.S., as well as carries some environmental advantages.  But.  And there is a rather large “but.”

When natural gas is burned, the amount of toxic air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and mercury, are only produced in miniscule amounts compared to coal.  But no process is fail-proof. 

It is obvious while natural gas supporters rave about natural gas. Air quality is not as compromised like that of coal when it is burned, leading to better rates of public health.  Also, the climate is protected as natural gas only emits approximately half the carbon dioxide as burned coal does.

But, and here is where the large “but” comes in:

Shale gas extraction has in many cases caused real-life problems for residents in areas where localized air and groundwater becomes polluted.  This happens when mistakes or carelessness creeps into the construction area and results in spills or other accidents. A small town in Wyoming called Pinedale, is one such town.

And while natural gas produces only half the amount of carbon dioxide as coal when burned, uncombusted natural gas is essentially methane. And if not properly regulated, methane is 84 times more potent than that of carbon dioxide for 20 years after it is released.

The question is not whether we can prevent methane emissions, but do we want to?

Read the full New York Times article here.

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