What’s Downside Of Using ‘Cleaner’ Natural Gas Instead Of Coal?

Earlier this week, President Obama announced new pollution rules that could drastically cut the use of coal to make electricity. But is the alternative any better?

Example of a flare that burns off methane gas


Texas gets about a third of its electricity by burning coal. But that produces lots of air pollution harmful to the climate and to people. New rules announced Monday by the Obama Administration would encourage alternatives, chief among them, using natural gas instead of coal.

That makes sense in Texas, the nation’s biggest producer of natural gas. But there’s a problem. Natural gas wells can leak methane, a highly-potent greenhouse gas.

Ben Ratner is with the Environmental Defense Fund, a national group involved in pollution research.

“Every ounce of methane that escapes into the atmosphere undercuts and undermines the potential climate advantage that it can have over coal,” Ratner told News 88.7.

Ratner says it may not be a wash but he says it’s close.

“I think that just puts more of an onus on finding and fixing the leaks and making sure we have some practical regulatory safeguards in place,” said Ratner.

And that’s exactly what he White House is expected to announce any day now: new federal rules to cut methane leaks at well sites and other production facilities.

Ratner has been working with the University of Houston, the University of Texas and with some of the biggest gas drilling companies to find the most cost effective ways to reduce those methane losses.



Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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