Better Future Project / 350 Massachusetts released a new report today showing that methane leakage increases the climate impact of natural gas consumed in Massachusetts by as much as 172%, adding dramatically to the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.
The new report reviews the latest scientific literature and finds that, over a 100-year timescale, methane leaks adds 34-68% to the greenhouse gas emissions from the use of natural gas. Evaluated over 20 years, methane leakage adds 86-172% to the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas. Natural gas pipelines, plants and drilling wells leak methane, which is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide when leaked directly into the atmosphere. Methane stays in the atmosphere for fewer years than does carbon dioxide, so its greenhouse gas impact is greater over 20 years than over 100 years. There is no scientific consensus as to which time period is more relevant for evaluating the potentially disastrous impacts of climate change on the planet.
The report also finds that fully accounting for methane leaks would raise overall statewide greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts by 10 to 25% — an amount which negates much of the state’s emissions reduction efforts over the last decade and threatens to push the state’s legally mandated 2020 emissions reduction target of 25% below 1990 levels out of reach.
Many federal and state agencies, including the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, rely on out-dated or inaccurate estimates for methane leakage. Because Massachusetts, like many New England states, is highly dependent on natural gas, properly accounting for methane leaks has a dramatic impact on the state’s overall emissions profile.
The state’s consumption of natural gas has grown by more than 30% since 2000, and natural gas power plants within Massachusetts provide around around 68% of all the electricity consumed in-state. Fracked gas, which is associated with higher methane emissions, makes up a rapidly increasing proportion of the region’s gas supply.
You can read the full report here. When you have a moment, be sure to congratulate the 350 Massachusetts policy team on their incredible work!
The report was co-sponsored by Toxics Action Center, Students for a Just and Stable Future and the Climate Action Liaison Coalition.