New Report: Natural Gas Not as Clean as Advertised.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

From the New York Times comes a report on a new study that blows a hole in the notion that natural gas is a clean fuel, particularly as it compares to diesel as a transportation fuel.

"The lady in the black pantsuit", who appears nightly on your TV screen, doesn't want you to hear this, because she has been trying for years to convince you that natural gas is "clean" and is the salvation of both the economy and the environment. Turns out, it is neither.

The sign is ubiquitous on city buses around the country: “This bus runs on clean burning natural gas.”

But a surprising new report, to be published Friday in the journal Science, concludes that switching buses and trucks from traditional diesel fuel to natural gas could actually harm the planet’s climate.

Although burning natural gas as a transportation fuel produces 30 percent less planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions than burning diesel, the drilling and production of natural gas can lead to leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Those methane leaks negate the climate change benefits of using natural gas as a transportation fuel, according to the study, which was conducted by scientists at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The study concludes that there is already about 50 percent more methane in the atmosphere than previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, a signal that more methane is leaking from the natural gas production chain than previously thought.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective,” said the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the department of energy resources at Stanford.

This is very timely information, particularly as the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is set to consider new rules for emissions from oil and gas facilities in our state. There is much more at this link.

The rulemaking being undertaken by our Colorado Health Department is a historic effort that should have everyones' attention. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time on planet earth a government has considered regulating methane emissions. This decision will have dramatic effects, not only on the health of Coloradans, but on communities around the globe as, once again, Colorado is leading the way toward responsible energy regulation.

The air we breathe is not a commodity with a relative value that should be discounted because of the profits of the worlds' wealthiest industry. I encourage everyone who can get there to attend the hearing next Wednesday, Feb. 19th., at the Aurora City Council Chambers, 15151 East Alameda Parkway, in Aurora. Public comment should begin about 9:00 AM, but things sometimes change on short notice.

The CDPHE website offers 303-692-2000 as an information source. Please consider participating in these hearings…unless, of course, you don't breathe air.

53 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    Duke – are the five West Slope counties still opposing the regs?

  2. Andrew Carnegie says:

    Does this mean when you evaluate the relative cleanliness of electic-powered cars you need to include the effects caused by the gereation of electricity and the differences in the materials used to make them?

    Does this mean that electric and hybrid cars are more harmful environmentally than gas powered cars?

    Oh,no.  Exactly what was the reason we subsidized their production?

    Is Stryker in the car business, too?


    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      Yes but… If all the cars are electric and we switch electricity generation to something good (like thorium) then immediately all those cars have their CO2 footprint eleiminated.

      But at present yes, they're coal powered and so figure 38MPG equivilent. But at least they don't require a military presence in the Middle East.

  3. ClubTwitty says:

    What's that smell?  Did troll-toddler ever show up to apologize for making a complete ass of himself spreading his crap all over then shown how much it was totlly manufactured bullshit?  You know, where he went on and on and on about my senator being responsible for some tragic tale that turned out to be bogus?  Because until that little infantile twerp does that all I notice is an odor of turd.  

  4. ardy3ardy3 says:

    Thanks for posting this, Duke. Here's a link to the actual science paper (pdf)

    As well as a short quote in which the authors concluded that there are still significant climate benefits from switching from coal to natural gas for electric power generation:

    Updating these assessments with uncertainty ranges from the second chart (see SM) still supports robust climate benefi ts from [natural gas ] substitution for coal in the power sector over the typical 100-year assessment period. 

  5. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    So which, in your opinion, is the optimal solution? Install methane-capture equipment on existing natural gas extraction facilities,  or gradually switch to, say, biodiesel, or both?

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:


      The smart option is for the state to help the large producers (Encana, Anadarko, Noble, etc.) reduce the fugitive emissions by requiring their subcontractors (and the smaller companies) to get on board with using existing technology to capture these nasty gases that are harming the health of humans as well as the health of the planet.

      Local buses never have to travel far from a central charging facility so they should run on electricity created by wind or solar. Over the road buses and trucks should be converted to bio-diesel as soon as possible. While bio diesel does, in fact, pollute when burned, it is renewable and sustainable and is certainly a better option than methane.

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        Actually, no conversion is necessary to bio-diesel. We just need to emphasize subsidize its use. In my case, the nearest bio-diesel source for our use is over a hundred miles away.

        • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

          Agreed with everything Duke said.  Make 'zero-tolerance' the state's absolute policy on methane.  None. Zero.  The technology exists today to achieve that goal.  Biodiesel is by far the best liquid fuel.  The technology to create the fuel from algae oils is fast approaching commercialization. Syngas transformation isn't far behind.  And the best part is the engines take no modifications if they are burning biodiesel that meets ASTM standards (which every credible biodiesel manufacturer today meets).  And from an emissions perspecitive, biodiesel can be combusted without the creating of NOx in engine technolgy that exists today as well.

          In regards to the issue of the egregiously low severance tax rate we have in Colorado – and the exemption of stripper wells from any tax – I'd propose a new change to the law:  end the exemption.  It is going to force the application of technology that captures the low pressure gas and converts it to syndiesel.  Again – that technology exists today.  What is missing is a state directive to force the industry to make use of all it's resources in the gas field. 

          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            I'd propose a new change to the law:  end the exemption.

            A novel approach, Michael….and, I daresay, a good idea. I don't think there is quite enough antacid in the world to deal with that much heartburn, though. laugh 

            As you know, stripper well operators are the world champions when it comes to whining. Everyone of them I have met is "on the edge of bankruptcy" from "too much regulation". They will never mention, though, that they don't pay severance taxes…it's called selective amnesia, I believe.

            • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

              I'd suggest they're bankrupting our treasury and our environment while they hide behind their own threat of bankruptcy.  There were arguably good reasons for the exemption at one time. Those reasons no longer exist.

              If we could find another $30 million pot of money like the one just granted to the state by the Federal Highway Administration (or dare say, from a severance tax fund that was generating dollars from a Wyoming-like rate) we'd have a liquid fuel that could be burned by CDOT or any diesel engine in the state, and some vast, new opportunities for the stripper-well community.  And more severance tax dollars in the pot.  And better air quality.

              But I digress.

              We aren't going to solve this problem with the same thinking that created it….

  6. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    That's smart, to consider application and infrastructure when prioritizing for environmental policy. Thanks, Duke.

  7. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    The most sensible solution is nuclear energy. And thorium is the best bet.

    Nuclear is the only source capable of generating the level of electricity presently generated by coal.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      We have 28 Gigawatts of untapped wind energy in southeastern Colorado alone (4x what the state consumes).  Solar in the San Luis Valley could light up the Pueblo-Ft Collins corridor.  We could easily replace every coal plant in the state with rooftop solar and wind – coupled with environmentally-benign storage mediums like NH3, hydrogen and batteries. 

      We're drowning in energy resources.  The kind that traps wealth locally, gives us a new tax base and creates lots of jobs. 

      David, I don't know if you've been following the Hawaii issue via your Mom, but the complaint now is that putting solar on everyone's roof on the islands will overload the system with too much energy.  This is exactly what Germany is finding out with "Energiewende"…they are flooding the daytime market with cheap wind and solar electrons – and their energy-intensive manufacturing base is the beneficiary. 

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        My mom's leading the charge against Hawaiian Electric.

        • Curmudgeon says:

          Against solar?

        • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

          If the Republican party was run by the Cynthia Thielen's of the world… (I'm obviously a huge fan of your Mom's.  We did deliver the hemp shirt from your brother to Willie!)

        • BlueCatBlueCat says:

          That's great but I'd be interested to know who your mom votes for, supports in elections at every level, raises funds for and contributes to. If the answer is fellow Republicans that kind of counters anything positive in a huge way. I still maintain that until the party changes radically from what it is today nobody should contribute to its power by voting for any Republican ever. Period.

          • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

            She's fighting to move the party back to sanity from the inside. A much more difficult job than just throwing arrows at all Republicans. It's also the most effective way to effect change.

            • Curmudgeon says:

              I've said it before, David, your Mom seems like an awesome lady; and if there were more Republicans like her, I'd be thrilled. But, being a moderate Republican is a lot easier where she is.  Do you really think she wouldn't be savagely torn apart by the GOP, the Tea Party, the Christian Coalition, and a host of other right-wing nutjobs if she tried any of that change from within on a national level? 

              • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                Absolutely. But imagine if there were 10 of her in the legislature here. You've then got credible sane GOP candidates for statewide office. And if that happens in 5 purple states, you then have a road back for the GOP.

                It may not be possible. But it's definitely a lost cause if people like her give up.

              • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                ps – Thank you for the very nice comment about her!!!!!

                • Curmudgeon says:

                  Not at all. From everything I've read about her, it's the truth (I'm gleefully unpleasant, not untruthful).

                  And, here's another truth (as far as I'm concerned); if the GOP had put up a fiscally conservative, socially moderate candidate in 2012, we wouldn't be discussing Obama's second term. Lucky for him (and those of us that like him), that was a complete impossibility. 

      • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

        Correction: 37 Gigawatts in southeastern Colorado; 93 Gigawatts in total, statewide.  That's just the wind…just two Solar Energy Zones in the San Luis Valley could power 125,000 homes, and it's estimated that rooftop solar could cut peak energy demand in the state by 58%.  We're literally drowning in clean energy resources.

        • Andrew Carnegie says:

          Does anybody on Pols like birds?  I mean like raptors,eagles, migrating birds, birds like that. The kind of birds that if mere mortals kill they go to jail.

          Using wind generated electricity gets them killed by turbine blades.  Solar gets them fried.  Both are about 3 times as costly to produce energy.  

          If you are not into coal, oil or gas, or more honestly if you think you are going to have a safer environment if those sources are transported to China, India and Indonesia and used there, but not here, then nuclear makes the most sense.


          • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

            I wonder when exactly it was that cons developed this deep and abiding love for bird life? This after years of promoting policies antithetical to that life form by habitat loss and pumping poisons into their food chains.I'd also like to see how ordinary solar "fries"bird life. Concentrated solar might. Right after that I'd like to hear of anything- put forth from cons out of con principles and passed principally by cons- that's ever benefitted the nation as a whole.

            • ClubTwitty says:

              Some chickenshit cowards do nothing but reflect poorly on their party, imaging themselves to be helping.  Add stupid, as in stupid chickenshit cowardly troll.  IMO.  

              Many conservation groups were opposed to concentrated solar, and this installation in particular.  Mostly due to wildlife concerns.  Rooftop solar tied into connected microgrids.  But, as you allude to, trolls that besmirch their own ideology through their sheer odiousness, don't care about birds, ethics, lies, or anything other than smearing their feces around.  

            • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

              As is almost always the case, the arguments for the energy transition is just a simple math equation.  "The Birds!" "The Birds".  Let the morons go argue about chemical applications that underpin the production of GMO crops, ferel cats, cars, transmission lines (that carry our coal-fired power to distant lands) and skyscrapers – then come back and clutch their pearls over what most of us out east refer to as "dinner". 

            • Andrew Carnegie says:

              You mean silly things like abolishing slavery that the Dems kept opposing?

            • Diogenesdemar says:

              Say, isn't the sage grouse a bird? . . .

              Isn't the spotted owl a bird? . . .

              And that California Condor, another bird, right . . . ? 

              I got one more bird for A.C — right here !!

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          And when the sun and wind overflow, we call it a beautiful day.  (paraphrasing someone).

          Are there good lobbying groups for the renewable energy industry? These guys say that they're renewable energy lobbyists, but they lobby for everyone…

          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            Barry Jackson is listed as their "strategic advisor"…

            his bona fides from their site:

            Barry served as Chief of Staff for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-West Chester) from 2010 to June 2012 and was Speaker Boehner’s first Chief of Staff from 1991 thru 2001. During that time, Barry was also Executive Director of the House Republican Conference during Speaker Boehner’s tenure as Chairman from 1995 until 1999. Speaker Boehner described Barry as "one of the most results-oriented professionals I've ever had the privilege of working beside."

            Prior to his return to Speaker Boehner’s office, Barry served from 2001 to 2009 in the White House of President George W. Bush as the first director of the newly created Office of Strategic Initiatives. Barry completed his service to the White House as Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs. In this role he managed the White House offices of Political Affairs, Public Liaison, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Strategic Initiatives.

            The New York Times called Barry "one of the most influential" figures in Washington and a "force in Republican politics for more than 20 years." Forbes named Barry to their list of "The World's 7 Most Powerful Conservatives."

            Another of Barry's notable successes is his role in directing and helping draft the 1994 "Contract with America," a document outlining a national platform that vaulted Republicans into the House majority for the first time in four decades, and helped lead to Newt Gingrich (R-GA) becoming Speaker of the House. Former Speaker Gingrich said of Barry, "I find that he's not just thought through step No. 1, but also steps 7, 8 and 9." Barry also played a similar role in the Speaker's 2010 "Pledge to America" which outlined a legislative agenda to win back the House.

            Born in Washington, DC and raised in Ohio, Barry graduated from the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Barry currently serves as a Trustee of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; a director of the National Endowment for Democracy; a director of the Consortium of Catholic Academies and a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the University of Iowa School of Journalism.

            Barry also serves as the Managing Director of The Lindsey Group.

          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            The Lindsey Group is led by Lawrence Lindsey of the American Enterprise Institute, and both the Reagan and Bush administrations.

            • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

              So Brownstein Hyatt Farbor Schreck contracts for  practically every conservative candidate or issue committee. I look at campaign finance a lot on TRACER, and that firm is everywhere. Their front page says, "Brownstein is always there". And they kind of are, at least in Colorado politics.

              They do some work for Democrats, but mostly Republicans.And, as Duke pointed out, their corporate roots go way back to the Bush/ Reagan years, and some decidedly environment unfriendly policies.  So I was kind of shocked that they were the first result to come up when I idly searched for renewable energy lobbyists.

              My point is that renewables need to have the same kind of advocacy and lobbying as oil and gas industries do.  Do we?

          • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

            Our "Colorado Problem" in one pictorial.  'nuf said….

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        Solar & wind are great. But they can't provide the power we need nationwide by themsleves. And even in Colorado (lots of land, low power requirements), we still need something for those times we have storms, overcast skys, low winds, etc. Storage is great for overnight and a sub-optimal next day. But those times when solar & wind are off for a week or two, we need something else.

  8. ardy3ardy3 says:

    And, if one prefers graphs:

    I find it touching that some cowards are concerned about birds, but all they can do is regurgitate what the cat brung in (literally as well as figuratively).

    Figure from Sibleys. (data sources included in the text accompanying figure at that site)

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      Thanks.  I like what they said about wind turbines:

      Wind turbines may kill 33,000 birds per year, and, as in the case of electrocutions, these birds tend to be large and scarce (e.g. raptors). The recent surge of interest in wind power has heightened concerns about their effect on birds, and has led to at least the discussion of efforts by the wind power industry to design more benign windmills and to choose locations that are less “birdy”. It’s difficult for an environmentalist to come out against renewable energy like wind turbines, but as long as the electricity generated is considered a “supplement” to satisfy increasing demand, wind power will not really help the fight against global warming. Establishment of wind farms should go hand-in-hand with drastic cuts in electricity use, and there is a real need for more study of the relationship between birds and wind farms.

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      Microsoft Windows is killing birds??? I gues it's time to switch to a Mac then.

  9. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    Move over, Silcon Valley…there's a new sheriff in town

    The website asks “Why Colorado?” and provides that “Colorado is rapidly establishing its U.S. and global prominence as a cleantech innovation ecosystem. The state has over 300 cleantech and 1600 support companies and is currently 3rd for U.S. in cleantech VC financing.” In a Renewable Energy World post on December 13, 2013, Rob Saunders, Head of Energy at the UK's Innovation Agency, Technology Strategy Board, explained that the UK came to the U.S. “because it has a rapidly growing cleantech cluster with inspiring organisations like the Rocky Mountain Institute and Innosphere, a great industry association in CCIA (Colorado Cleantech Industry Association), and of course the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Denver.”

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