A new paper by researchers at the University of Maryland becomes the latest to join a growing science posse trying to correct the enormous damage done to science and public understanding by Professor Howarth of Cornell University when he released his study finding gas to be as dirty as coal for carbon emissions. For the University of Maryland Paper go to http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/4/044008.
Joining a chorus of disagreement to Professor Howarth's work, the University of Maryland researchers say: "Arguments that shale gas is more polluting than coal are largely unjustified."
A key assumption among many shaky or false assumptions of Howarth and his colleague, Professor Ingrafea, in their study was that shale gas had a massively higher fugitive emission rate than conventional gas. The Carnegie Mellon University study financed by the Sierra Club and released in August found this assumption to be false for Marcellus shale wells.
Now the University of Maryland researchers report similar findings to Carnegie Mellon University on the point of whether shale gas wells have higher fugitive emissions and say: "We have demonstrated that the fugitive emissions from the drilling process are very likely not substantially higher than for coventional gas."
Professor Howarth and Ingrafea's paper is already considered to be junk by researchers in the area and reviled by some for the damage it has done to science. But their mess lives on. Their paper is constantly cited by the popular press. More than a few mainstream environmental groups will not tell their members that this study should not be trusted, fearing what would be real blowback from members.
And so many good people believe that in terms of at least carbon pollution, gas is as dirty as coal when coal is twice as dirty on a life cycle basis as gas.
In truth, the Howarth piece has as much scientific integrity as a typical hit piece on global warming science does. Both betray science and the climate.