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Response to LNG Industry Report on the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from LNG

LNG Allies, the lobby arm and trade association for oil and gas interests promoting LNG, is out with a new report that claims, not surprisingly, that LNG isn't so bad for climate after all. This is directly contrary to the latest science, as well as the letter from 170 climate scientists (including Dr. Rose Abramoff of Ronin Institute, Dr. Robert Howarth of Cornell University, Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, Dr. Peter Kalmus of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dr. Michael Mann at University of Pennsylvania), who write:

“…even in the best-case scenarios, LNG is at least 24 percent worse for the climate than coal. Increasing LNG exports will mean increased extraction of fossil fuels and climate pollution and directs us away from a renewable energy future.”

The LNG industry report is deeply flawed because it relies on inaccurate data on methane emissions, the climate super-pollutant that is the main component of LNG and natural gas. The report acknowledges that the data set it relies on is “controversial” (pg. 16), but that is a vast understatement. The data used in the report is self-reported by industry and significantly understates methane pollution from natural gas systems. For example, a peer-reviewed study published last month in Nature examined one million aerial measurements and found that average methane leak rates for US oil and gas are three times the industry's self-reported numbers that LNG Allies relied upon for their report.

The fact of the matter is that LNG is a triple climate threat. LNG (1) vents methane pollution from leaks throughout the entire supply chain, (2) requires significant energy to super-cool, liquefy, and transport, and (3) emits CO2 when the gas is burned. Building new gas and LNG infrastructure would lock in new sources of global climate pollution that, according to the International Energy Agency, creates “the clear risk of locking in fossil fuel use and putting the 1.5°C goal out of reach” (World Energy Outlook 2023, p. 19).

According to a 2023 study by Symons Public Affairs, if all planned US LNG plants are built, total GHG emissions from DOE-authorized LNG exports would be 3.9 gigatons annually in terms of total (gross) lifecycle emissions, and 3.5 gigatons annually when netting out substitution based on global emissions trends. These emissions from US LNG would be larger than the GHG emissions from the European Union.

US LNG is one of the most expensive energy sources abroad and is unlikely to compete economically with coal, which tends to be a low-cost option (see for example here). Instead, as documented in my 2023 report on LNG, the long-term buildout of LNG infrastructure would compete increasingly with electrification (e.g., heat pumps), energy conservation, and renewables. 


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