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Dirtier than coal?

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A recent Cornell University study found that, contrary to what most people might think – and certainly to what the industry might have you believe – the development of natural gas resources could actually have a bigger carbon footprint than the mining and combustion of coal. Although researchers agree that natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal, a significant amount of methane leaks into the atmosphere during hydraulic fracturing, the process of extracting natural gas from the ground and also known as fracking.

"We are not advocating for more coal or oil, but rather to move to a truly green, renewable future as quickly as possible," researcher Robert Howarth told the Cornell Chronicle.

How big of an impact will the study have here in Arkansas? Bill Kopsky, with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, says that will depend on whether or not future studies confirm the findings.

"I don't know if a lot of Arkansas policy makers care if natural gas is cleaner or dirtier than coal, to be honest," Kopsky says. "From that standpoint I don't know if it will change any policy-makers' views. You hear everybody talk about natural gas as a bridge fuel, but the Cornell study says it's a bridge-to-nowhere fuel. I think the industry could do a lot to make it cleaner."

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