Rising levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane in the atmosphere have been linked to emissions from the shale oil and natural gas industry, a new study from Cornell University reveals.
In a study published this morning in the European Geosciences Union journal Biogeosciences, Cornell University Ecology Professor Robert Howarth reported that an analysis of the methane found in the Earth's atmosphere has chemical fingerprints that point to shale, an industry which uses horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to unlock oil and natural gas in tight geological formations.
A single methane molecule is made from one carbon atom at the center and four hydrogen atoms in orbit. But the study reveals that a rapidly growing amount of methane in the atmosphere is made from the carbon-13 atom, a type of carbon found in natural gas extracted from shale formations.Click here to continue reading.
Energy in Depth quickly responded to this study as well:
A new Park Foundation-funded methane study is generating lots of anti-fracking headlines, despite its conclusions being at odds with the bulk of the scientific community. Cornell University professor and Food and Water Watch board member, Bob Howarth, is back and this time he claims that oil and natural gas emissions are the primary cause of recent global methane spikes – a theory that many climate and atmospheric scientists have rejected.
Howarth’s conclusions were called “far-reaching” and “premature” by one of the anonymous experts tasked by Biogeosciences to review the research prior to publication, who explained:
“The advice to move as quickly as possible away from natural gas based on this study does not appear sufficiently conclusive…”
The research, which Howarth stressed multiple times during the journal’s review process is “in the ‘Ideas & Perspectives’ category and is not a traditional research paper,” also met a healthy dose of skepticism from the scientific community. As Newsweek reports:
“Quentin Fisher, professor of petroleum geoengineering at the U.K.’s University of Leeds, said he was ‘deeply skeptical’ about the study. ’The results are extremely sensitive to highly questionable assumptions regarding the isotopic composition of methane found in shale. The arguments made by previous studies that increase in methane in the atmosphere is from biogenic sources, such as release from wetlands and agriculture or burning of biomass, seem far more convincing.’” (emphasis added)
Fisher’s criticism is likely the first of many if Howarth’s previous research track record of rejections is any indicator. EID has the four key facts to keep in mind when reading the study’s media coverage on EIDClimate.org.