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Study: U.S. methane emissions probably exceed estimates

WASHINGTON -- U.S. emissions of methane are probably 50 percent higher than current estimates show, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The study estimated emissions in 2007 and 2008 using measurements on the ground, in telecommunications towers and from aircraft for a comprehensive inventory of the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. It found that methane that is released from the raising of livestock and the extraction of oil and natural gas is underestimated.

That may mean methane has a bigger role in climate change than now thought, as new rules to limit emissions that may lead to global warming are considered.

Emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, have newfound prominence with the rise of hydraulic fracturing and the sharp growth of U.S. oil and natural gas production.

Methane accounted for 9 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted in the United States in 2011, according to the EPA. It stays in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide, but methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere. -- Bloomberg News

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