CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The boom in drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale and other similar formations will likely suppress the development of alternative energies that are urgently needed to combat global warming, according to a new study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.
Researchers highlighted some positive aspects of the boom in drilling for "shale-gas" reserves, such as help in lowering gas prices and stimulating the economy.
But they warned that a switch from coal to natural gas alone isn't nearly enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels scientists believe are needed to curb the worst impacts of global warming.
"People speak of gas as a bridge to the future, but there had better be something at the other end of the bridge," said Henry Jacoby, an engineer and economist and lead author of the paper, which was published in the inaugural issue of a new journal, "Economics of Energy and Environmental Policy."
In West Virginia and some surrounding states, business and political leaders are pushing hard to encourage continued growth in natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation. The drive is heating up, as states race each other to offer economic incentives to lure a natural gas "cracker" plant to one of their communities.
Industry supporters say little about recent scientific papers that question whether natural gas really provides improvements over coal in terms of greenhouse emissions or concerns that the gas boom diverts resources and attention from developing renewable energy sources.
In their new paper, Jacoby and his co-authors compared what various electricity prices and greenhouse emissions under several energy supply scenarios including -- and not including -- natural gas from shale formations.