Natural Gas a Bridge to a Lower Carbon Future?
Natural gas does not usually come to mind when thinking about a low carbon, sustainable energy future. However, a study released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seems to indicate that natural gas is likely to have a pivotal role in a changing energy economy. The MIT study sees natural gas as a type of bridge to an increasingly carbon-free energy future. The United States, along with Russia and the Middle East, has extensive natural gas reserves - much of it in the form of shale, a fossil fuel. The MIT study points out that shale could reach 40 percent of the energy market by 2040. This would include a move towards compressed natural gas-powered transportation. The relatively good news is that natural gas has about half the carbon footprint of coal, which is the source of most fossil-fuel driven electrical energy in the world. However, natural gas extraction does involve drilling that carries the threat of groundwater contamination. At least one MIT engineer believes the threat is “entirely manageable.” In light of similar safety assurances with offshore oil drilling, all natural gas extraction activities need to be carefully examined.