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Assessing Coal Versus Natural Gas is Vital for Defending Clean Energy

Assessing potential climate effects of natural gas versus coal electricity generation is complicated by the large number of factors reported in life cycle assessment studies, compounded by the large number of proposed climate metrics. Key factors altering the climate change effects of natural gas versus coal electricity production need to be identified and presented clearly and transparently.
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Nature and Context

The most severe impacts of climate change may be avoided if efforts are made to transform the global energy systems into one that does not rely so heavily on disposing of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. A transition from a global system of high GHG emission electricity generation to low GHG emission electricity generation will be central to any effort to mitigate climate change.

Several studies have surveyed the impacts of GHG from natural gas production and utilization, focusing on different factors and leading to different conclusions. The use of natural gas emits less CO2 per unit energy than does coal. However, because the climate is far more sensitive to methane than to carbon dioxide, researches hypothesize that potential climate benefits of natural gas use may be offset by leaks at gas drilling fields or other earlier points in the natural gas production lifecycle.

Various studies use and/or advocate for different metrics to estimate the climate impact of natural gas utilization.

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