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Environment

CO2 Emissions Unchanged By Natural Gas Use

by Andrea Widener
September 29, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 39

Increased natural gas use will do little to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, according to a new study. Instead, use of the fuel could actually increase energy consumption by delaying adoption of energy-efficient technologies and put off a switch to cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine; Stanford University; and the nonprofit group Near Zero modeled different scenarios of natural gas use and climate change regulations to tease out their effects on greenhouse gas emissions. Increased natural gas use would result in a decrease in coal use between 2013 and 2055, according to the paper, published in Environmental Research Letters (2014, DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/9/094008). But it would also decrease use of energy-efficient technologies, which could result in an overall increase in electricity use and could boost greenhouse gas emissions. “Natural gas has been presented as a bridge to a low-carbon future, but what we see is that it’s actually a major detour,” says author Christine Shearer of UC Irvine.

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