Getting abundant natural gas through hydraulic fracturing contributes to global warming as much as coal, if not more, according to a study quoted by political news website TheHill.com. The story, from the site's E2 energy and the environment blog, quotes a soon-to-be published report by Cornell Prof. Robert Howarth:
The [greenhouse gas] footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20 percent greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.The study will run in the journal Climatic Change, according to the E2 blog. The blog quotes an expert from an energy consulting firm -- with clients in the natural gas industry -- who questions Howarth's study study. If the study is confirmed, it could have repercussions in the North American plastics industry, which is counting on plentiful supplies of natural gas from U.S. shale deposits as feedstocks for polyethylene resin. This isn't decades down the road, either -- in the past month, three ethylene projects have been announced in North America to take advantage of the newfound supplies of natural gas in the region.