The rapid expansion of unconventional natural gas development has reshaped the U.S. energy picture through increased production and reduced prices of natural gas. The shale gas production boom has also ignited divisive debates over its near- and long-term environmental impacts. Our new study looks to clarify what is known about leakage rates of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the U.S. natural gas sector, what progress has been made to reduce those emissions, and what more can be done to further reduce leakage.
Despite lingering data uncertainties, we find that these emissions can and should be addressed with urgency, and we identify a number of cost-effective reduction options available to do so. The paper outlines tools that federal and state governments can employ to reduce these harmful emissions, helping to clear the air and slow the rate of climate change.