Fracking, damned if you do?

26 Mar 2012

T Boone PickensAn academic fight over emissions from hydraulic fracturing is likely to have implications for all of us. In 2008, T Boone Pickens released his Pickens Plan for an American transition to wind power, using natural gas as a “bridge fuel” and replacement for coal and oil.  While politics has swept this plan from the national stage, we certainly have heard a lot about the move toward enhanced natural gas recovery via hydraulic fracturing.

Recently, two groups of Cornell professors have been feuding over whether fracking results in significantly more methane escaping into the environment than is caused by more traditional gas extraction (see opposing views here and here).  There is little doubt that methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas (GHG) than CO2, but the debate appears unresolved as to whether fracking vents so much more methane into the air that it offsets the GHG savings achieved by switching from coal to natural gas.

The outcome may give fracking opponents yet one more argument to oppose it.

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