“We Were Wrong. Methane Isn’t So Bad After All. Sorry.”

An academic study on methane goes bad. Will anyone in the press notice? Dan Markind reports and reminds environmentalists to be careful what they wish for.

Earlier today, the Journal of Geophysics Research issued a retraction notice for an article it first published online on April 20, 2017. In pertinent part, the retraction reads:

“The article, Ren, X., et al. (2017), “Methane remissions from the Marcellus Shale in southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia based on airborne measurements,” has been retracted by the authors because of an error in wind measurements used to calculate methane emissions from the southwest Marcellus Shale region. The error was discovered by the authors in October 2017…The original wind measurements led to an overestimate of methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations. A reanalysis with corrected winds…is expected to reverse a conclusion of the paper, which had asserted that leakage from oil and natural gas extraction in this region results in a climate penalty compared to the use of coal….”

Everybody makes mistakes. Kudos to the authors and the journal for admitting the error and working to correct it. This, however, is far from the first time that scientific papers have not been so scientific after all. Further, it will be interesting to see if the press picks up the story. They certainly loved the concept that natural gas production was worse than coal. Outlets like NPR and StateImpactPA have been willing to trumpet every new study that even suggests there might be environmental damage associated with fracking. They have been less willing to give the same intensity of press coverage to studies that go the other way. Let’s see what happens now.

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