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Natural gas more polluting than cars

When natural gas is extracted and processed, a lot of escaping gas is burnt. This releases more CO2 into the air than the C02 emissions produced by all cars in the EU.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), about eight percent of the gas escapes unburned into the atmosphere during gas production. Previously, the agency had assumed only four per cent. Natural gas is a combustible gas that mainly contains methane (CH4). But it also contains other gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ethene, ethane, butane, propane and noble gases. The individual gases are harmful to the environment in different ways. In order to be able to compare their harmfulness, the harmfulness of CO2 is used as a reference value. 

As the IEA now calculates, the amount of CO2 (or other gases with corresponding harmfulness) released into the air with the unburned gas that escapes during extraction is equal to the annual production of all cars in the EU. Furthermore, the IEA has calculated that the equivalent of 465 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved in total if the flaring of gas during extraction were reduced to the bare minimum worldwide. 75 per cent of pollutant emissions could be prevented in this way, but this would require an annual investment of 11 billion euros. That sounds a lot, but it is less than the value that could be gained by not wasting gas. Another source of energy waste and pollution are the many leaks and leaking points in the pipelines. Finding, locating and sealing leaks in petroleum industry pipelines could therefore significantly reduce emissions. Just checking and repairing the pipes every three months could reduce methane emissions by 14 million tonnes (equivalent to 430 tonnes of CO2).

Another way to combat waste would be to put a high price on methane. In fact, the most effective way to avoid useless burning would be to massively increase the price of a tonne of methane to encourage companies to save more of it and not just let it burn.

It really does seem a bit bizarre when you experience massive restrictions as a motorist, you possibly have to buy a new car so that you can drive into an environmental zone. And on the other hand, no efforts are made on the part of the gas production industry to counteract the waste of gas and reduce air pollution. As long as this does not change, motorists will continue to make a major contribution to clean air through Europe's low emission zones.