The EPA’s next regulatory frontier: Methane emissions
posted at 12:41 pm on March 31, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
The progressives’ wealthy eco-contingent has been growing increasingly displeased with the Obama administration and their relatively mild efforts to temper global warming via executive action revealed in their Climate Action Plan announced last summer — namely, the administration’s refusal to more quickly squelch the fossil-fuel industry and more rapidly bring about those “necessarily skyrocketing” energy prices about which President Obama once spoke so dreamily.
Ergo, on Friday, the Obama administration announced a new set of regulatory measures to target the greens’ latest pet peeve: Methane emissions. They have recently turned to methane emissions especially as a bludgeon with which to hammer the shale oil-and-gas boom, claiming that methane’s status as an especially potent greenhouse gas (about 20 times the warming effects as carbon dioxide over time, they say) actually cancels out the lower carbon-emitting benefits we’ve been recording from our lately increased natural gas usage. The EPA is therefore promising to start working on a new set of measures to curb methane emissions from the energy industry, the agricultural sector, and more — although they’ll evidently be mostly voluntary, and some of the hardcore greens are a little disappointed.
The White House estimated on Friday that the administration-wide strategy could cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 90 million metric tons in 2020. Some elements of the plan could affect coal mines and landfills. …
Friday’s news drew applause from the Environmental Defense Fund, which has partnered with industry to slash methane emissions in the states.
“This announcement is the most recent development in a year where both the impacts and solutions from methane emissions have come into clearer focus, creating new momentum for action,” EDF President Fred Krupp said in a statement. “Methane pollution is an intense contributor to global climate change, and the White House methane strategy is a smart road map for taking on the biggest sources of emissions, including natural gas leaks from the oil and gas sector.”
But while more liberal green groups like the Sierra Club called the strategy an “important step,” they also raised some red flags about the administration’s commitment to natural gas development.
“[E]ven with the most rigorous methane controls and monitoring in place, we will still fall short of what is needed to fight climate disruption if we do not reduce our reliance on these dirty fossil fuels,” said Deborah Nardone, campaign director of the Sierra Club’s Keeping Dirty Fuels in the Ground program.
The oil-and-gas industry doesn’t even do most of the methane emitting in this country — belches from livestock herds are currently the number-one culprit, as an EPA study recently found — and the oil-and-gas industry in particular has even recently done some major innovation toward more sophisticated equipment that is increasingly succeeding at capturing methane leaks. I can’t help feeling that this is just another lame, feel-good effort by the Obama administration to look like its Doing Something on climate change and appease the greens by hindering the energy industry and taking credit for advancements on a problem it is already bettering on its own.