Regarding the May 27 news article “$55M natural gas plant slated for Duke campus”: Duke University’s plan to burn natural gas for campus electricity would be an utter disaster.
The main means of extracting natural gas is now fracking. This technology is so quick and dirty – explode the shale rock to force the contained oil or gas out. It is cheap and easy.
But with natural gas (methane), much of it escapes into the atmosphere where it is 86 times the climate impact of CO2 over its first 20 years, according to the authoritative International Panel on Climate Change.
When the Duke University administrator champion of natural gas, Richard Newell, said gas burns cleaner than coal, he was marginally correct. Natural gas provides only a bit over 50 percent of the CO2 when burned as coal does, but he is ignoring the other half of the story.
Total life cycle, the inevitably leaked methane (natural gas is about 95 percent methane) runs the number up to about twice the climate effects as coal. So if the natural gas plant is built on the Duke campus, from the day it begins generating power, it will be approximately doubling Duke University’s greenhouse effect compared with coal power. What a legacy.