Compared to coal, natural gas is often seen as a cleaner fossil fuel since it produces half as much carbon dioxide when it is burned. Furthermore, other toxic emissions, such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, that are generated from burning fossil fuels are much less for natural gas than coal as seen in Figure 1 . Because these facts are often promoted and are well known advantages of natural gas, I have always been led me to believe that it is a very good non-renewable alternative to coal. However, a recent article from National Geographic argues that switching from coal, which accounted for over 37% of the US energy consumption in 2008, to natural gas would do little to stop global warming [2, 3]; the argument is based on a study published last month in Environmental Research Letters. The study stated that a global switch from coal to natural gas would only decrease predicted global warming temperatures by about 20%. On the other hand, a switch from coal to renewable energy sources would result in a 57%-81% global warming temperature decrease .
Figure 1 
An article from Star-Telegram raises another concern about global warming caused from the principle component of natural gas, methane which is able to trap heat 21 times more effectively than carbon dioxide [4, 1]. Essentially this release of methane into the atmosphere could offset the benefits seen from switching from coal to natural gas; however, the oil and gas industry try to reduce this problem by using equipment to prevent methane release into the atmosphere . In 1993 the Natural Gas STAR Program was also created to reduce methane emissions by encouraging the industry to implement proven technologies and practices that would help accomplish this goal. The success of this program can be seen in Figure 2 which shows the U.S. cumulative and annual methane emission reductions in billion cubic foot for 2010 .
Figure 2 
The two articles do a good job at not condemning natural gas, but present very valid points about natural gas and how it is not necessarily the world’s best shot at combating global warming. While I agree that there are some drawbacks with natural gas (like there are drawbacks with every type of energy source), I think that using it in place of coal is still a good step to take in an effort to reduce our environmental impact, even if it is a small step. Though switching to renewable energy sources is obviously the best choice to reduce global warming, it would be hard to make a complete switch to renewables due to their high economic price. Finally, I think it is important for the oil and natural gas industry to continue to improve how it handles methane capture, flaring, and leaks so that people can have more confidence about the environmental benefits of using natural gas over coal.
 NaturalGas.org. (2011). Natural Gas and the Environment.
 Inman, Mason. (2012, March). Natural Gas a Weak Weapon Against Climate Change, New Study Asserts. National Geographic.
 Webber, Michael E. ” Conventional Fossil Fuels: Coal and Natural Gas.” Jan. 2012. Lecture.
 Star-Telegram. (2012, March). Rise in Natural Gas Production Raises Greenhouse Effect Concern.
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2011, November). Natural Gas STAR Program.