MDN tries to avoid “inside baseball” stories as much as possible—those stories that are highly technical and involve complex math and science. We avoid them not because they aren’t important—they are. But because readers often don’t have the time to study the issue properly to understand it. When possible, we try to interpret such stories and give you “the bottom line.” This is one of those stories.
In December 2011, the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR) published a paper by a number of authors associated with NOAA—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The paper, titled “Hydrocarbon emissions characterization in the Colorado Front Range – A pilot study,” took a close look at natural gas drilling and using some rather complex science, made the bombshell claim that a large amount of methane escapes into the atmosphere during the drilling process. In the parlance of scientists, the issue is called “fugitive emissions.” Those who buy the claims of manmade global warming say methane is a “potent” greenhouse gas—so if a lot of it escapes into the atmosphere, that’s a bad thing. It causes the globe to heat up.