Tri Harder sidebar – gas no better for the climate than coal in generating electricity

A very quick sidebar to the triharder series – switching from coal fired electricity generation to gas fired electricity generation has no climate change benefit for 250 years!! I nearly fell off my three legged stool when I read this one.

I first came across it in the climate progress blog, they have blogged about it a few times so its worth reading the links in the blog.

The latest blog is about methane leakage rates from natural gas fields being a lot higher than accounted for – “A March 2012 study by climatologist Ken Caldeira and tech guru Nathan Myhrvold…. found that even if you could switch entirely over to natural gas in four decades, you “won’t see any substantial decrease in global temperatures for up to 250 years. There’s almost no climate value in doing it.” And that was using conventional (i.e. low) leakage rates.” Conventional leakages rates are 2%.

The latest study has found that leakages rates are as high as 9% in some cases. The author then goes on to quote another study – “A major 2011 study by Tom Wigley of the Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) concluded:
The most important result, however, in accord with the above authors, is that, unless leakage rates for new methane can be kept below 2%, substituting gas for coal is not an effective means for reducing the magnitude of future climate change.”

Gas fired electricity generation has often been described as a “transition technology”, something that we do to transition us from dirty coal to clean renewables. Reading through the reports that are linked in the climate progress blog it sounds like this was the case 20 years ago, but not now. Switching from coal fired electricity generation to gas fired power generation does not give any short term, medium term or long term climate benefit!

Back at work next week so I will be continuing the triharder series then. With a new view based on the above!

4 Comments on “Tri Harder sidebar – gas no better for the climate than coal in generating electricity

  1. Pingback: Tri Harder – Part 3, How does trigeneration stack up in each state? – Simon Wild

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