Cracked: 15 Things to Know About Gas, Money and Power

By Eric Roston and Tom Randall - 2014-02-21T13:10:53Z

Photograph by Robert Gilhooly/Bloomberg News

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Environmentalists Are Ambivalent

When burned, natural gas produces about half as much atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide as coal does. That's why gas has been welcomed as an alternative to coal by many climate-policy advocates, including President Barack Obama. The idea that gas can be a “bridge to renewable power” has been common for 20 years and is at least as old as 1980.

“Early on, folks in the environmental community saw that natural gas could be a tool in the fight against coal,” said Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund. “The environmental community has soured on natural gas precisely because they’ve seen the some of the real impact that production has on local communities.”

Research has also begun to show that gas infrastructure leaks significant amounts of methane -- a financial loss to the industry and a powerful heat-trapping gas that undermines natural gas’ green cred.