The practically cost-free way to slow global warming that Trump won't adopt

June 30, 2018

What if there were a way to slash planet-warming greenhouse-gas emissions at little to no net cost? Opportunities such as these exist because knowledge about them has emerged gradually and the government has failed to require the simple changes needed. An example is curbing methane emissions from the nation's booming natural gas industry. A new study in the journal Science suggests that the industry can easily do much better, driving immediate emissions benefits while extracting and transporting a fossil fuel that, if handled correctly, is substantially cleaner than coal.

The application of fracking and horizontal drilling technologies to natural gas production revolutionized the U.S. energy industry over the past decade. Once a major importer of natural gas, the country is ramping up exports and burning more and more in its power plants. A steadily low price of natural gas has kept energy prices in check and helped American manufacturing. This revolution has the potential to be good for both the economy and the environment, because burning natural gas produces none of the toxic ambient air pollution that burning coal does, and only about half the greenhouse emissions. The Obama administration made switching from coal to gas a cornerstone of its plans to slash emissions from the power sector.

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