Are gas or electric appliances better for the climate?
Switching from natural gas to electric cooking and heating could cut the carbon footprint of Munich’s Oktoberfest festival by 87%, according to a new study. The dramatic difference is in part due to leakage and incomplete combustion of natural gas by appliances, which releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. Still, similar gas-to-electric switches would not have as great a benefit at a global scale – yet – because the carbon footprint of electricity varies from place to place, the researchers found. “Gas leakages and the share of renewable electricity are critical to understand the climate impact of gas and electrical powered cooking and heating appliances,” says study team member Jia Chen, an engineer studying air pollution and climate change at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. The researchers found only five countries – Brazil, France, Canada, Belgium, and Venezuela – in which electricity is almost certainly a more climate-friendly energy source than natural gas for cooking and heating appliances, even if the methane leakage rate is very low. Actual methane leakage rates are notoriously difficult to pin down in practice, but assuming an average methane leakage rate means that two more countries, the United Kingdom and Spain, join the group.