Methane emissions higher than previous estimates

Nov 29, 2013

Government estimates of methane emissions from the Rocky Mountain region might be low.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that’s produced by agriculture, natural gas drilling and coal mining, among other things. Knowing how much of it is being released is important because of its potential effects on climate.

But a study released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows nationwide methane emissions in 2008 were one and a half times government estimates. Paper co-author and Harvard graduate student Scot Miller says 
the Rocky Mountain region was no exception, but that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the emissions are coming from.

“When you get to smaller and smaller regions, our estimate of methane emissions becomes more and more uncertain,” Miller says.

That's because Miller and his colleagues were measuring emissions at just a few spots around the country. But he says regional variability suggests agriculture and oil and gas drilling are the main sources.