Despite its clean-burning reputation, a newly released study suggests that fueling transport trucks with natural gas could actually worsen their climate impact.
Although natural gas produces less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels when burned, drilling and shipping natural gas produces methane, which is a considerably more potent greenhouse gas.
Researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund and Columbia University's Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy calculated that switching a variety of heavy duty trucks from diesel fuel to natural gas could produce stronger climate effects over the next 50 to 90 years.
The authors suggest that "policymakers wishing to address climate change should use caution before promoting fuel switching to natural gas," particularly as fracking increases domestic natural gas production.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, also found that process and technological improvements — including reducing methane losses in the natural gas supply chain and improving engines' fuel efficiency — could make natural gas preferable to diesel.