Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Report From Cornell Professor Once Again Debunks Cornell Professor Howarth's Study

Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea published a report last year (which received funding from the Park Foundation) that made some rather incredible claims about the emissions of natural gas production being worse than the emissions from coal.  The study has been debunked from many different corners by many different experts.  Howarth and Ingraffea have stuck to their claims and continued to beat the anti-gas drum, though, like any true activist would.  Ironically (though the irony is obviously lost on the professors), they've even declared that reports whose conclusions opposed theirs are so biased that they are "almost useless."

Not every researcher at Cornell agrees with Howarth and Ingraffea.

From Energy in Depth:
Some quick history: Last April, Professor Robert Howarth et. al. released their paper on GHG emissions from shale wells. But a few months ago, Dr. Lawrence M. Cathles (professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University) and a team of other scientists responded to the paper by noting, among other things, that it relies on unrealistic assumptions of emissions and improper time intervals to determine warming potential. (Andrew Revkin at the New York Times had a good write-up on the Cathles response.) Shortly after, Howarth et. al. responded to the Cathles et. al. response, essentially just regurgitating their previous talking points, without offering substantive response to virtually any of the conclusions reached by Cathles and his team. And now (bear with us here), Cathles et. al. have responded to Howarth’s response to Cathles’s response to the original Howarth paper. Got it?
So Dr. Cathles has already demonstrated his feelings on the Howarth study.  But in case it's not clear, he has released another paper outlining the climate benefits of natural gas development.  Of note is that Cathles received no outside funding for his research.

Again from Energy in Depth:
Professor Cathles has released a new paper describing the climate benefits of utilizing natural gas, a paper that adds yet another nail in the coffin to the universally panned Howarth paper from last year. From the Cathles paper’s opening summary:
We show that substitution of natural gas reduces global warming by 40% of that which could be attained by the substitution of zero carbon energy sources. At methane leakage rates that are 1% of production, which is similar to today’s probable leakage rate of 1.5% of production, the 40% benefit is realized as gas substitution occurs.
Cathles also directly rebuts Howarth’s central claim that methane leaks constitute as much as 7.9 percent of production. “It’s just an impossible number,” Cathles told Bloomberg News. He added that “the story is quite clear that we would be very well advised to substitute natural gas” for coal and oil. 
Interestingly, Cathles also found that even if the leakage rate were more than twice as high as Howarth’s upper end estimate of 7.9%, converting to natural gas would still provide climate benefits. “[S]ubstituting gas will be beneficial if the leakage rate is less than ~19% of production,” Cathles concludes.
Read more about the new paper here.

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