March 7, 2013

Well, not really the Committee on Foreign Relations (and , not really NOAA, for that matter), but a team of researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Michael Levi, energy fellow at the CFR are engaged in a fierce debate over the extend of methane emissions from natural gas production.  Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than is CO2, and if natural gas production releases much methane, than it cancels out (or worse) any gains  we would get from its lessened CO2 output.

Two NOAA studies have claimed that there is massive methane leakage associated with natural gas production.  Levi, however, has made serious methodological critiques on those studies and has instead found a much lesser level of leakage.  Sadly, the national press has given much coverage to the NOAA studies, but next to none to Levi’s critiques.

There is no definitive answer to the debate at the moment.  We will have to wait for careful collection of new data to determine which side is right, or at least closer to the truth.  A full explanation of the debate can be found on Levi’s blog here (with links to all the relevant papers and notes, including those from NOAAA).

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