Coal Tattoo

Study: Switch to gas won’t cure global warming

A natural gas well operated by Northeast Natural Energy on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011.  (AP Photo/David Smith)

We had an interesting story in today’s Gazette reporting:

Switching power plants from coal to natural gas will not help to significantly slow down global warming, according to the latest in a series of studies to examine the much promoted role for gas as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy production.

The study, published late last week in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Change Letters, found that substitution of gas for coal would result in increased — rather than decreased — global warming for many decades.

We first reported on this study in our watchdog blog, Sustained Outrage, on Friday, and the study has received a fair amount of other media coverage here, here, here and here.

This is an issue we’ve covered before over in Sustained Outrage, with posts here, here and here.

There is much more research needed on this issue, especially given some great uncertainties about the levels of methane leakage from gas drilling operations. But so far, the take-home message, really, was in our Gazette story today:

Robert Howarth, a Cornell University ecologist who authored a widely cited paper on the subject earlier this year, cautions that switching from coal to natural gas shouldn’t divert the country from bringing on more renewable energy sources.

“It’s not saying we should keep burning coal,” Howarth said in an interview. “It’s that we should do more to move to what we need to do in the longer term anyway.”