Natural gas (primarily methane) has a reputation for being clean and “good” for the climate because burning gas for cooking, heating and power emits fewer pollutants compared with burning coal-- but it is the process of obtaining the gas that creates major health and environmental concerns, writes Professor Melissa Haswell.
Easily accessible “conventional” gas deposits have met domestic purposes for decades at low cost. Recently, however, new techniques have made it possible to extract natural gas from previously unobtainable (“unconventional”) deposits of coal (coal seam gas), sandstone and limestone (tight gas) and deep shale deposits (shale gas).
One unconventional gas mining technique called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is always required for shale and tight gas mining, and often required for coal seam gas mining, but it is only one of many environmental health concerns associated with oil and gas extraction.
The moratorium on fracking was lifted by the Northern Territory government in April 2018, raising alarm among doctors and others with knowledge of the industry’s potential health, social and environmental impacts.
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