Companies could capture methane that currently vents into the atmosphere and sell it for a profit. So why aren't they doing it?
For years, environmental groups and politicians declared that natural gas was a clean source of energy that could help turn back the tide of climate change. Then last year, Robert Howarth, a professor at Cornell University, contradicted that idea in no uncertain terms, concluding that over its life cycle, natural gas can do as much harm as coal, the bête noire of energy sources. Natural gas does produce lower greenhouse gas emission when burned, he acknowledged, but not all the gas that comes out of the ground is burned for energy—a significant portion leaks into the atmosphere as methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.