In July 2023, the Environmental Research Letters published “Evaluating net life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions intensities from gas and coal at varying methane leakage rates” (Gordon et al., July 2023).[1] The study seeks to introduce a novel analysis comparing the net climate impact of natural gas and coal life-cycle emissions, predicated on sulfur dioxide pollution emitted from coal-fired energy use, and assumptions related to methane emissions across the natural gas value chain and at the source of coal production. However, the study’s headline conclusions are inadequately justified. The study inappropriately equates short-term cooling effects from coal-fired pollution with longer-term impacts related to carbon dioxide and methane, which is inappropriate given the scale and timeframes involved with global climate change. Moreover, the study appears to overlook critical factors such as the higher end-use efficiency of natural gas end-uses relative to coal. Finally, the study must be evaluated in the context of a vast body of other research that has concluded the climate benefits of natural gas use compared with coal.

Comment on Study Conclusions

Further Details

[1] Gordon, Deboraha,b, Frances Reuland, Daniel J Jacob, John R Worden, Drew T Shindelle, and Mark Dysonb. 2023. “Evaluating net life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions intensities from gas and coal at varying methane leakage rates.” Environmental Research Letters.
aWatson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, bRMI, cHarvard University, dNASA JPL, eDuke University

[2] See: Alvarez, Ramón A., Daniel Zavala-Araiza, David R. Lyon, David T. Allen, Zachary R. Barkley, Adam R. Brandt, Kenneth J. Davis, Scott C. Herndon, Daniel J. Jacob, et al. 2018. “Assessment of Methane Emissions from the U.S. Oil and Gas Supply Chain.” Science 361, no. 6398: 186-188.

American Gas Association. 2022. “Understanding Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas (EPA Inventory).” Accessed month day, year.

[3] Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Leaks Can Make Natural Gas as Bad for the Climate as Coal, a Study Says.” The New York Times, July 13, 2023.

[4] See Table 2: Cusworth, Daniel H., Andrew K. Thorpe, Alana K. Ayasse, et al. 2022. “Strong Methane Point Sources Contribute a Disproportionate Fraction of Total Emissions Across Multiple Basins in the United States.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119, no. 38: e2202338119.

[5] Energy Information Administration. 2018 Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey. Table 1.2.

For questions please contact Richard Meyer, Vice President Energy Markets, Analysis, and Standards |
American Gas Association


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