Measuring Natural Gas Emissions


A natural gas well in Hamilton, Pennsylvania. Source:

Last spring the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) predicted that natural gas would generate more power in 2016 than coal, and now that natural gas has taken that lead, it is under close scrutiny as a “cleaner” alternative to coal. From the EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, natural gas also beat out coal for carbon dioxide emissions from power generation.

“Energy-associated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from natural gas are expected to surpass those from coal for the first time since 1972. Even though natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, increases in natural gas consumption and decreases in coal consumption in the past decade have resulted in natural gas-related CO2 emissions surpassing those from coal.”

And the agency isn’t talking in fractions of a percentage point, either. EIA puts the emissions figure for natural gas at 10 percent greater than coal for 2016.

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Paris Bans Pre-1997 Cars from Roads

Good news comes from the French capital in an effort to reduce smog and carbon emissions on the streets in the city of light, but the United States is stuck trying to discourage driving in much weaker fashion, Camille von Kaenel reports for Scientific American:

Cities around the world are driving vehicles off the streets by imposing strict anti-pollution measures, but the car still rules in the United States.

This week, the city of Paris launched a ban on vehicles built before 1997 during weekday daylight hours. Mayor Anne Hidalgo has been candid about her desire to expand the ban to cut back on smog from diesel cars and to “reclaim” the city for pedestrians and bikers.

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A Call to Cut Truck Emissions in EU

Image ©

The Guardian just keeps the good environmental news coming. Any initiative to reduce carbon emissions is helpful, and to have big companies with clout promote such a goal is admirable and a good sign of cooperation to come. Arthur Nelsen reports:

An alliance of companies including Ikea, Nestle and Heathrow airport have called on the EU to pass new laws cutting truck emissions within two years, to meet promises made at the Paris climate conference.

Heavy duty vehicles make up less than 5% of Europe’s road traffic but chug out a quarter of the sector’s carbon emissions – more than airplanes – and their fuel efficiency has hardly changed in two decades.

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The Ocean Never Sleeps

Image Courtesy The Huffington Post

It’s no secret that icecaps are losing mass due to increased global warming; and one of the world’s safeguards against carbon emissions, the ocean, is working overtime trying to sequester anthropogenic gases.  The ocean as a carbon sink has been well known for quite some time, although recently it seems as though it has been on the back-burner for many governments, organizations, corporations, businesses, etc.

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The Case Against Red Meat

Are you trying to eat healthier? Then stop eating red meat.

That’s the message that we’ve see in the past few years: dozens of news articles and medical journals tell us the dangers of red meat–beef in particular. The recent scare over pink slime has further increased distaste and caution around ground beef, and the suspicion is beginning to spread to other types of meat as well. Amidst all of the hype about meat in our diets, sustainability- and health-conscious consumers might wonder why scientists are focusing on red meat. Why not chicken, pork, or fish? The answer is two-sided: one relates to health concerns, and the other relates to environmental impacts of cattle-raising. Let’s briefly look at both.

Want to dig in? Not so fast, suggests the results from a study of the Harvard School of Public Health. Eating just a few ounces of red meat every day can increase your risk of colon cancer and heart disease.

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Carbon Emissions Series: Scope 3 for Hospitality

If someone asks you to measure your property’s scope 3 emissions, you should tell them that it’s basically impossible. Because it is. That’s the gist of this post. But before we despair over the endless range of scope 3 emissions for a hotel property, let’s toss in the GHG Protocol’s definition:

Scope 3: Other indirect emissions, such as the extraction and production of purchased materials and fuels, transport-related activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by the reporting entity, electricity-related activities (e.g. T&D losses) not covered in Scope 2, outsourced activities, waste disposal, etc.

How far does your supply chain reach? The vast scope, depth, and complexity of hotels' supply chains and customer interactions make scope 3 measurement a daunting task.

Carbon Emissions Series: Scope 2 for Hospitality

In our continuing discussion about the types of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we have now come to scope 2 and how it relates to the hospitality industry. Much of the research at the Cornell Hotel School focuses on lowering electricity usage, which directly correlates with scope 2 emissions. Let’s start off with a definition.

Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from consumption of purchased electricity, heat or steam.

One of the biggest sources of scope 2 emissions is the coal-fired power plant, which emits CO2, NOx, SOx, and a number of heavy metals. Although it is extremely inefficient, coal remains a major source of electricity in the United States.

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Carbon Emissions Series: Scope 1 for Hospitality

In my previous post, I identified carbon emissions as the significant metric to track for hospitality, and I explained why hospitality is one of the best industries to target for sustainability efforts. Now I’d like to delve deeper into the different types of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how they relate to hospitality. My goal of this three-part explanation is to provide our readers with a broad understanding of the scopes of GHG emissions and with a general idea of the extent to which hospitality contributes to climate change. Let’s jump right in!

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol defines three scopes of emissions. Our discussion today will focus only on the first scope, as it relates to hotel properties: direct, on-site emissions.

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Carbon Emissions Series: Why Hospitality?

In the past two months, I’ve hammered through interview after interview for internships this summer, and sustainable hospitality is a subject that seems to always surface. Along with the standard boiler-plate questions, I noticed that one topic in particular would often be asked about my interest in hospitality: why target sustainability in this industry? Why not sustainability elsewhere? And is the Cornell Hotel School the best place to explore it? I must admit that I didn’t answer the question too well the first few times, but I’ve taken a step back to truly think about my answer.

The hospitality industry's reach is near endless. It is indirectly involved with the GHG emissions of six of the eight major contributors above: transportation, agriculture, commercial services, land use, waste, and power.

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Carbon Emissions Series: Green Neighborhood Design

With the close of the semester, I’ve had some time to reflect on the classes I took—and which ones provided the most value. One of best courses I took this semester at Cornell was called Green Real Estate, and it was taught by Mark Vorreuter, a passionate LEED AP who was eager to see students of all majors interested in green buildings. The course covered many aspects of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a certification offered by the Green Building Council for buildings, homes, and neighborhoods that meet a set of criteria. I remembered spending several nights cramming for a practice LEED exam in which I had to acquaint myself with many of its specific criteria, but not until recently was I able to see the real effects of green building and neighborhood design.

Suburbs in Pearland offer large houses, wide roads, and generous land spacing.

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Carbon Emissions Series: Vacationers’ Diets

The hospitality industry is, by nature, one that encourages indulgence. I have seen this mindset manifested through many examples: travelers insisting on using a new towel every day, taking more than they can possibly eat at buffet lines, and drinking ungodly amounts of alcohol at hotel and restaurant bars. Today, tourists excuse themselves from their diets—and some, their environmental principles—when they go on vacation. They expect opulence and excess (a quick look at Las Vegas will confirm all of this). Firms that strive for sustainability are therefore in a hard spot, as they must meet the expectations of guests while providing products and services that do not degrade the environment.

This crude energy pyramid shows that only approximately 10% of energy is transferred between upward steps in the food chain. The higher up you eat, the more energy your diet requires.

I thought it appropriate to look at this paradox more in depth by explaining the findings of an interesting report that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released recently. Titled Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health, this study conducts life cycle analyses

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Carbon Emissions Series: Air Travel Efficiency

One of the more interesting responsibilities of my current internship here in DC is to peruse news articles and company/NGO reports that relate to corporate social responsibility. Last week, one particular report caught my eye because of its relevance to travel and tourism. Brighter Planet, a sustainability research and reporting company, recently published a white paper on airline efficiency. The paper, titled “Air Travel: Carbon and Energy Efficiency,” struck me as ironic. Air travel is a highly emissions-intensive mode of transportation and seemingly incompatible with sustainability. It accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a large number for a single industry.

Brighter Planet’s report, however, did not seek to justify flying. It instead analyzed a decade’s worth of data on a host of fuel consumption metrics on all major airlines. What the research found was intriguing and useful. The efficiency of a flight that you take is influenced by countless factors, but there are five main “efficiency drivers” that most significantly impact the GHG emissions of a flight: aircraft model, seat density, load factor, freight share, and distance. I’ll do my best to explain each of these briefly. Continue reading