The emissions benefits of the United States producing shale gas instead of coal are overstated, researchers at the University of Manchester have found.
The US is burning less coal due to increased shale gas production, but millions of tonnes of unused coal are being exported to the UK, Europe and Asia, researchers said in a recent report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University.
They also warned, although US CO2 emissions are down 8.6% from a peak in 2005, the trade in coal may displace more than half of these reductions overseas.
“It is the total quantity of CO2 from the energy system that matters to the climate,” Dr John Broderick said, lead author on the Co-operative commissioned report. “Research papers and newspaper column inches have focussed on the relative emissions from coal and gas.
“We must seriously consider whether a so-called “golden age” would be little more than a gilded cage, locking us into a high-carbon future.”
Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre said US coal exports had increased since the supply of shale gas became significant in 2008.
“This increases global emissions as the UK, Europe and Asia are burning the coal instead,” he said.