WASHINGTON—As U.S. lawmakers promote natural gas as a way to reduce air pollution, a scientific study published this week questions the benefits of the fuel when used to power vehicles and generate electricity.
The study authors said methane leaks from the production and transportation of natural gas should be studied in greater detail before the U.S. adopts any major policy shifts.
The study, co-written by scientists at several universities and the environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, wades into an increasingly murky area of energy research. In it, scientists said the production of natural gas results in methane leaking into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change and limits the environmental benefits of natural gas. Methane, the primary component in natural gas, is more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas but decomposes more quickly in the atmosphere.
The research comes at a time when President Obama and other U.S. lawmakers are hailing natural gas as a fuel of the future, capable of replacing coal in power plants and gasoline in cars. That is because it is thought to be better for the environment and is produced in abundance in the U.S.