In the wake of Saudi Arabia drastically slashing the price of oil on Monday as part of an ongoing feud with Russia, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh made an extraordinary pronouncement while explaining the story to his listeners: American natural gas — production of which stands to be seriously hurt by the price competition — is a totally clean fuel.
This is, simply put, a grievously false assertion.
Natural gas is largely made up of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and contributor to the climate crisis, which over a 20-year period is up to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In addition, the fracking process often used to extract oil and natural gas in the U.S. is highly destructive to local environments and causes major health issues for nearby residents, including premature births, nasal and sinus symptoms, and skin disorders.
What makes natural gas attractive to policymakers is that while it is still a conventional fossil fuel, it emits less carbon dioxide than coal and oil — even with all its damaging effects. (Though even here, the benefits can be undone when the unburned methane leaks out.)
But the idea that it “doesn’t create so-called greenhouse gases” — that’s a level of denialism up there with claiming the coronavirus is an insidious plot by China and the media out to get President Donald Trump.