Researchers at Stanford University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Colorado State University say they have discovered a new rule about leaks from natural gas wells: 5 percent of the leaks are responsible for more than 50 percent of the problem in the United States. Plugging the leaks at these few "super emitters" could significantly reduce the total emissions of methane—the primary component of natural gas, and one of the main greenhouse gases that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere.
Although methane is shorter-lived and less abundant in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, its global warming potential is much higher. For that reason, reducing emissions of methane and other short-lived climate pollutants has significant near-term benefits.
The study tracing super emitters follows closely on the heels of the news that just 90 companies are responsible for more than 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Together the two reports suggest that focusing on a relatively small number of emissions sources could be a highly effective way to take a big bite out of climate pollution.
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