The study on methane emissions by the Environmental Defense Fund, as reported in a Washington Post story published in this paper June 22 (“Study says methane leaks offset natural gas benefits,” Page A3), should be a wake-up call to homeowners, business persons and municipal officials in Maine, who are considering heating options for their buildings or communities.

Scientists have been warning us for years that the Environmental Protection Agency may have underestimated the amount of methane lost to the atmosphere during drilling for gas and oil, especially at sites where hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is employed. (Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas.) Now, we have a substantial and rigorous study, published in the journal Science, that lends credence to those warnings, and makes it clear that the role of natural gas and propane in reducing greenhouse emissions is not what we have been led to believe.

The combustion of natural gas and propane isn’t associated with ground-level pollution, but its contribution to global warming, via methane emissions in drilling and storage, strongly suggests that we should consider alternative ways to heat our homes and businesses. One of those is the air-source heat pump.

This type of unit can be easily installed in most buildings, is just as efficient as natural gas or propane and has significantly less impact on our climate.

That’s because, in Maine, more than half the electricity needed to operate a heat pump is derived from renewable energy sources. If a homeowner or business installs solar panels along with heat pumps, the benefits are even greater.

The Environmental Defense Fund study is a powerful reminder that we need both new policies in Maine to move away from fossil fuel-based energy, and a governor who will not only support such policies, but initiate them, providing the leadership that has been lacking for the last eight years.

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