A new study finds that the amount of methane released into the atmosphere by fracking does not contribute significantly to global warming, meaning, according to the Associated Press, that natural gas is "not as bad for global warming as coal."
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 90 percent of the study was funded by energy companies actively involved in drilling. The other 10 percent came from the Environmental Defense Fund. But a spokesperson for the University of Texas, whose scientists carried out the research, told National Journal that "while the companies contributed money to the study, they had no input on the research or results, which were subject to independent peer review before being published in ... one the nation's most prestigious scientific journals."
There's certainly no denying that the findings are good news for oil and gas companies, as well as for the Obama administration, whose climate plan relies heavily on the substitution of natural gas for oil. David Allen, the study's lead author, said that both the White House and the EPA "have expressed great interest in the findings."
The study did not take the possibility of air and water pollution caused by fracking into account, and its authors acknowledge that more research needs to be done on the natural gas supply chain. A full set of studies on the entire fracking process will be released by the end of 2014, according to a statement from the EDF.
The response from the anti-fracking camp is skeptical, to say the least. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement, “This industry-sponsored ‘study’ is more spin than science. The Environmental Defense Fund is running interference for the industry.”
But Robert Howarth, one of the first scientists to raise concerns about methane emissions, told the Associated Press that the finds were good news -- it's possible for the industry to produce low-emissions gas, he said, “but they very often do not do so. They do better when they know they are being carefully watched.”