Oops. NOAA determines that fracking, oil drilling not contributing to increased methane emissions

posted at 5:31 pm on March 12, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

[Editor’s note: The original version of this article cited NASA as the source of the study as per the source material. They have since edited this to cite authorship of the study to NOAA. This change is made throughout the article.)

Is there anyone at the EPA who has even the foggiest idea how any of this works?

On the heels of their carbon and mercury emissions limits which are already tied up in court, the EPA announced this week that they will double down on their incredible record of success (/sarc) and roll out some new methane regulations. The restrictions will apply to all oil and gas wells in the country, despite the industry already having massively reduced extraneous emissions at well sites. The timing turned out to be rather unfortunate for the agency however and set them up for some serious embarrassment. Only one day after the announcement, NOAA release another long anticipated study which sought to identify the source of methane in the atmosphere. The results were rather stark and won’t make Gina McCarthy very happy. (Energy Indepth)

Just one day after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it will regulate methane emissions from existing sources of oil and natural gas in order to “combat climate change,” scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have released a new study finding that oil and natural gas producers are not to blame for a global increase in methane emissions. In fact, according to the researchers, the increased emissions are instead coming from wetlands and agriculture.

The lead author of the study, Hinrich Schaefer, an atmospheric scientist at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand, put it this way to Climatewire:

“Currently increasing methane levels are caused not by fossil fuel production but rather by wetlands or, more likely, agriculture.”

The linked study shows that there has been a significant increase in “unconventional” energy extraction (primarily fracking) but their overall contributions to global increases in methane levels are negligible at best. Of course, we’ve written about that here before, though nobody at the EPA seems to be reading it. The energy industry didn’t need anyone to tell them to reduce methane leakage at drill sites. Why? Because it’s a primary component of natural gas. In case that’s not sinking in yet… it’s the stuff they are drilling for. When they let it slip out into the atmosphere that’s literally money going up in smoke.

Naysayers will no doubt be quick to raise questions and ask how on Earth these eggheads could know where the methane is coming from. Well, for the party that claims to love science, perhaps they could listen to the scientists for a change. We can “fingerprint” the gasses in the atmosphere now (hint: that’s one reason NOAA is involved) and there are actually different types of methane. Thermogenic methane is released from industrial, energy extraction activity. Biogenic methane occurs naturally and is released due to agricultural activity and the melting of typically frozen ground, widely across eastern Europe and western Asia. Thermogenic methane emissions stopped going up in the 90s and haven’t resumed since. It’s the biogenic methane that’s been on the rise.

I’m sure that won’t let Gina McCarthy stop her, though. What good is having an EPA if you can’t keep slapping new regulations on some of the nation’s biggest job creators?


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