What is “Clean” Energy Anyways?

Written by Annie Sartor

Topics: Coal

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Not natural gas.

Researchers at Cornell University just released a study (pdf) that argues that using natural gas for energy actually causes more, not less, greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

The reason that natural gas is so greenhouse gas-intensive is because of “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, the process required to extract natural gas from far underground. The study’s authors found that during the fracking process, enough methane is released from underground to make natural gas actually dirtier than coal.

No FrackingAccording to the study: “Compared to coal, the [climate] 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.”

This news is especially distressing because coal plants across the United States are converting to natural gas in response to upcoming EPA air pollution regulations. Instead of switching from one dirty fuel to another, communities need to replace dirty power plants with truly clean, green energy — and banks need to stop financing false solutions like natural gas and instead invest in the renewable energy solutions that will replace fossil fuels once and for all.

For more information about natural gas extraction and fracking, check out RAN’s official position statement on hydrofracking, or get involved with Earthworks, a great organization working to protect communities from the devastating effects of gas development.

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