PrintPrint CiteCite
Style: MLAAPAChicago Close


Climate Consequences of Natural Gas As a Bridge Fuel

Author: Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies
January 3, 2013
Climatic Change



Many have recently speculated that natural gas might become a "bridge fuel", smoothing a transition of the global energy system from fossil fuels to zero carbon energy by temporarily offsetting the decline in coal use. Others have contended that such a bridge is incompatible with oft-discussed climate objectives and that methane leakage from natural gas system may eliminate any advantage that natural gas has over coal. Yet global climate stabilization scenarios where natural gas provides a substantial bridge are generally absent from the literature, making study of gas as a bridge fuel difficult. Here we construct a family of such scenarios and study some of their properties. In the context of the most ambitious stabilization objectives (450 ppm CO2), and absent carbon capture and sequestration, a natural gas bridge is of limited direct emissions-reducing value, since that bridge must be short. Natural gas can, however, play a more important role in the context of more modest but still stringent objectives (550 ppm CO2), which are compatible with longer natural gas bridges. Further, contrary to recent claims, methane leakage from natural gas operations is unlikely to strongly undermine the climate benefits of substituting gas for coal in the context of bridge fuel scenarios.

View a pre-print of the article.

View full text of article (Subscription required).

More on This Topic


Fracking and the Climate Debate

Author: Michael A. Levi
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Shale gas is no panacea but, with the right policies to protect communities where gas is produced and to harness the fuel as part of a...


Assessing the U.S.-China Climate Deal

Speaker: Michael A. Levi

Fellow Michael Levi, CFR's senior fellow for energy and the environment and director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic...


Bittersweet Achievement on Climate

Authors: Michael A. Levi and Jason Bordoff
New York Times

Michael Levi and Jason Bordoff commend President Obama's new plan to mitigate climate change, but they warn that Congressional inaction poses...