Global Warming

Fracking could be behind US methane surge

Startling increases in one of the main pollutants that cause global warming have been unexpectedly discovered over the United States – and the main suspect is the country’s booming fracking industry.

New Harvard University research, drawing on satellite measurements, concludes that US emissions of methane – a much more powerful warming gas than carbon dioxide – have “increased by more than 30 per cent over the past decade”.

The researchers say they “cannot readily attribute” the rise to any particular source but point out that US production of shale gas increased nine times during the same period, while other studies show that many fracking operations are emitting much more methane than has been officially recognised.

If the extraction process proves to be the culprit, it will show that exploiting and burning shale gas has been much more potent in global warming even than using coal, severely undermining energy and climate-change strategies. Both the British and US governments have been banking on shale gas as a relatively clean fuel that would act as a “bridge” to the low carbon economy needed in the next few decades if the world is not to heat up uncontrollably.

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