Is Natural Gas Really Worse Than Coal?

gasvscoalDirector Josh Fox, speaking to Jimmy Dore, made the claim that, due to natural gas leaks, natural gas was actually worse for the environment than coal. Here’s why he’s full of crap, unless he is talking about a jurisdiction that has far worse leakage than California or Washington DC.

Wikipedia states generation by natural gas emits 469 g of CO2 per kWh, where as Coal emits 1001 g/KWh, which is kinder to coal than the figure above, from the US government’s energy information administration.

Next, Southern California Gas Co., the largest gas distribution company in the US, reported a 0.87 percent loss rate in 2012; in 2011, that rate was 0.84 percent. In comparison, Washington Gas Light Co., which serves the greater District of Columbia, had a 3.65 percent loss rate in 2012; in 2011 it was 4.04 percent.

Natural gas turbines require 11302 BTUs/kWh. Natural gas generates 1010 BTUs/cubic foot. That means natural gas generates about 10 kWh/Cubic foot; in other words, it requires 0.1 Cubic foot/kWh. With a loss rate of 1%, that means 0.001 cubic feet are lost to generate a kWh. A cubic foot of natural gas weighs about 1.5 grams. Since natural gas is 25 times worse than CO2, that’s equivalent to about 38 grams of CO2.

So the leaks in California are equivalent to 0.038 grams of CO2 per kWh. Even in Washington DC, were leaks are about 4 times worse, that’s still only just over 1g of CO2 per kWh worth of impact. These numbers are not significant. You would have to have leaks 400 times worse than in Washington DC to get close to as bad an environmental impact from natural gas as from coal.


About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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