New York: Increased use of natural gas will not help arrest carbon dioxide (CO2) emission significantly because it delays the widespread construction of low-carbon energy facilities, such as solar arrays, says a US-based study.
Inexpensive gas boosts electricity consumption and hinders expansion of cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar, the study noted.
"In our results, abundant natural gas does not significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. This is true even if no methane leaks during production and shipping," said lead author Christine Shearer from the University of California, Irvine in the US.
Previous studies have focused on the risk of natural gas - composed primarily of methane - leaking into the atmosphere from wells and pipelines.
Analysing a range of climate policies, the researchers found that high gas usage could actually boost cumulative emissions between 2013 and 2055 by five percent - and, at most, trim them by nine percent.
"Natural gas has been presented as a bridge to a low-carbon future, but what we see is that it is actually a major detour. We find that the only effective paths to reducing greenhouse gases are a regulatory cap or a carbon tax," Shearer added.
Greater use of gas is a poor strategy for clearing the atmosphere, the researchers concluded.
"Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies," said Steven Davis, assistant professor at UC Irvine and the study's principal investigator.
"It may be better than eating full-fat cookies, but if you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether," Davis explained.
The study appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters.