President Barack Obama has said his administration would promote the expansion of toxic fracking in radioactive shale — not just at home but across the globe. His plan to simply replace one form of dirty energy (coal) with another (natural gas) is not only counterproductive in regards to climate change; it unfairly places the cost of the response to the climate crisis on the shoulders of Americans living above the shale fields.
While I’m excited to see the president acknowledge a need to convert to renewable energy, the latest science tells us a transition to natural gas is not only unnecessary, it will actually accelerate global warming. Over a 20-year time horizon, fugitive methane emissions alone are 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
When leaking methane reacts with certain atmospheric aerosols, its global warming potential could reach 105 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide. With numbers that high, a mere one to three percent loss of methane into the atmosphere would make the switch to natural gas worse for the climate.
Obama recommends we go all-in with fracking just as the data start to show a fatal flaw in the process that puts our rural communities at risk of contaminated groundwater.