What Rush Limbaugh gets wrong about fracking and the climate crisis

Rush Limbaugh claims fracked gas “not a pollutant.” (It seriously is.)

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.

Rush Limbaugh claims that natural gas “doesn’t create so-called greenhouse gases”

Audio file

Citation From the March 9, 2020, edition of Premiere Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show

RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): It is the fact that we can now get oil from shale rock that has done one of the greatest bits of damage to Saudi Arabia. Now we’re allies with them, so we’ve not held it over their heads nearly as much as we could have. But we are now a net exporter of fossil fuel energy, a net exporter of natural gas and oil brought about by fracking.

Whenever you have had natural gas, you find oil. Whenever you find oil, you’ll find natural gas. Natural gas is a clean fossil fuel. It’s not a pollutant, it doesn’t create so-called greenhouse gases. It’s clean as it can be -- and we own it. We own it.

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.