ICYMI: Criticism of Cornell shale paper “leaks” out from some unlikely places

Posted April 13th, 2011 by Dave McCabe, atmospheric scientist

  • “This paper is selective in its use of some very questionable data and too readily ignores or dismisses available data that would change its conclusions.”
  • “The authors’ choice as to which data to use for leaks from natural gas processing, transmission, and storage systems is also a big concern. They recognize the limitations of EPA data, then use those limitations to dismiss the EPA work, and then use higher values, which come from even more questionable sources. … These two decisions alone result in unrealistically high emissions.”

Full post:

Posted April 12, 2011 by NRDC’s Dan Lashof

  • “While these higher figures were produced by well respected researchers, they have not yet been subject to the level of review and scrutiny conducted by the IPCC for its estimates.”
  • “[W]hile I can see an argument for using a time horizon shorter than 100 years, I personally believe that the 20-year GWP is too short a period to be appropriate for policy analysis because it discounts the future too heavily.”
  • Relatively few actual observations were used to estimate ‘emission factors,’ which were then extrapolated to estimate emissions from the system as a whole.”

Full post:

Posted April 15, 2011 by CFR’s Michael A. Levi

  • “The data for leakage from well completions and pipelines, which is where [Howarth] is finding most of his methane leaks, is really bad.
  • “Howarth’s gas-to-coal comparisons are all done on a per energy unit basis. That means that he compares the amount of emissions involved in producing a gigajoule of coal with the amount involved in producing a gigajoule of gas. … The per kWh comparison is the correct one, but Howarth doesn’t do it. This is an unforgivable methodological flaw …”
  • “I worry about what this paper says about the peer review process and the way the press treats it. … These reviewers don’t appear to have been on the ball. Alas, this sort of thing is inevitable in academic publishing. It’s a useful caution, though, against treating peer review as a mark of infallibility … “

Full post:

MIT Energy Initiative exec. director Melanie Kenderdine, interviewed by CNBC on April 12, 2011


  • “What he has done in his analysis is deviated from what are accepted standards, accepted by EPA, DOE, the IPCC, European Trading Scheme, California Air Resources board, where essentially the denominator that they use to calculate the impacts of various greenhouse gases is an agreed upon 100 years; Professor Howarth uses 20 years.”
  • “[T]here are major scientific organizations that think we should actually extend that hundred-year period, not shorten it.  So he has changed what is a standard number for calculating the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions … “

Full segment:

  • EID Fact Check: Five Things to Know about the Cornell Shale Paper [link]
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