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Are gassy cattle a bigger problem than US government thought?

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"These results cast doubt on the EPA's recent decision," wrote the researchers for the report. "Overall, we conclude that methane emissions associated with both the animal husbandry and fossil fuel industries have larger greenhouse gas impacts than indicated by existing inventories."

The MIT Technology Review described how the study might change the perceptions of different fossil fuels:

"At stake is whether switching from coal to natural gas can provide a net benefit in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Burning natural gas releases about half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal. But that benefit could be offset by leaks of methane, the primary component of natural gas."

President Obama remains a strong supporter of the natural-gas industry, but he has begun discussing it in more measured terms. In his 2012 State of the Union address, he praised the industry's cleanliness and economic promise, which he said was "proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy." But his 2013 Economic Report included some reservations:

"Measuring fugitive methane emissions from the U.S. natural gas supply chain and, more generally, understanding the potential impacts of natural gas development on water quality, air quality, ecosystems, and induced seismicity, are critical to understanding the impact on the environment of the increasing use of natural gas."

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