Hunting a climate fugitive

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Science  27 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6191, pp. 1472-1473
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6191.1472

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Will the rise of natural gas from shale help curb climate change – or contribute to it? That's the question researchers are asking as shale gas begins to replace coal as the fuel of choice for generating electricity. The good news is that burning gas creates less CO2 per unit of energy than coal or gasoline. So the gradual shift could reduce emissions, buying time for the development of new, cleaner energy technologies. The bad news is that leaks from natural gas wells, pipelines, and tanks may be spewing more methane—a potent warming gas—into the atmosphere than once estimated. Such "fugitive emissions" have inspired scientists to try to hunt down and accurately measure the leaks. Policymakers, meanwhile, are debating what kind of policies could ensure that shale gas is a more climate-friendly fuel.