An increase in natural gas production and use has been lauded by the industry as the perfect opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But although the boom in shale energy production has helped to keep energy prices down for U.S. consumers and has resulted in an overall drop in consumption of certain types of fuels, including coal, oil and nuclear power, it will not contribute to an overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent report published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Moreover, the report estimated that the accessibility of U.S. shale-based fuels has led to a rise in total energy consumption. Researchers pointed out that natural gas does have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but this could only happen if radical policy changes were implemented. At present, increased natural gas production is slightly increasing energy consumption and encouraging fuel-switching, leading to the combined effect of changing the nation's greenhouse emission levels, researchers explained.

Higher energy consumption, potential methane leaks from natural gas wells and the continuous refocus of investments from renewables to shale development are some of the issues standing in the way of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The combined impact of these influential factors could offset the benefits brought by reduced use of oil and coal and could have a powerful effect on the U.S. emission reduction strategy, the study suggested.