Methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is a serious problem for our climate and communities, but it’s one most people aren’t even aware of. That’s because, while methane is a powerful pollutant, it is colorless, odorless and invisible to the naked eye.
But residents of Southern California’s Porter Ranch neighborhood had their eyes opened wide to the methane problem when a natural gas storage well in nearby Aliso Canyon ruptured and created a massive leak right next to their homes – an incident detected by residents in October from the putrid smell of mercaptan, an additive utilities use to more easily detect natural gas leaks.
Natural gas is made mostly of methane, and when it is released unburned, it has a warming power over 84 times that of carbon dioxide over 20 years. So, leaking or intentionally emitting unburned natural gas – which happens not just through malfunctions but often during routine production and transportation of oil and gas – can do major climate damage. The California Air Resources Board estimates that Aliso Canyon is pumping out methane at about 50,000 kg per hour, or about 62 million standard cubic feet, per day – that’s the same short-term greenhouse gas impact as the emissions from 7 million cars.
Now, on day 48 in a very uncertain timeline of the one of the largest U.S. natural gas leaks ever recorded, infrared cameras are giving us a true glimpse at the size of this man-made methane volcano. Looking at side-by-side images of Aliso Canyon taken on Dec. 9 using an everyday camera and one equipped with infrared technology reveals just how blind we are to this kind of pollution:
More than a hundred frightened local residents packed a room at the Porter Ranch Community School for three hours last week, looking for answers about the foul stench caused by a massive natural gas leak nearby. Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility has been leaking vast amounts of noxious gas into the air for two weeks, with still no end in sight.
Environmental health risks abound
The familiar rotten-egg smell of mercaptan – which utilities add to the normally odorless gas – hangs in the air for at least a mile, a pungent reminder of the potential health, safety and environmental risks of the uncontained airborne spill. Natural gas is mostly methane; a powerful pollutant that contributes to smog formation and global climate change, packing 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years it is in the atmosphere. Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage site in the Western U.S., operating under intense injection pressures and holding huge amounts of methane. Read More
Also posted in Natural Gas
By: Jonathan Camuzeaux and Tim O’Connor
Many people have been following the AB 32 cap-and-trade program since it kicked off on January 1, 2013. After all, it’s the most comprehensive carbon market in the world; it has created billions in investments for pollution reduction in California communities and garnered intense international attention. Now, based on data showing the program has cut climate pollution during its first compliance period, the chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has dubbed it “officially a success.”
Under California’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting program, the largest polluters in the state across all sectors must report their emissions every year. This data is then collected and counted by CARB. Yesterday, the agency released the final tally of the 2014 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions covered by cap-and-trade, and with data, we get the final word on what happened during the program’s first compliance period (for years 2013 and 2014). Read More
By: Lauren Navarro and Tim O’Connor
Every day thousands of Americans suffer from dirty air – costing the young and old their health, livelihood, and in many cases, their lives. As California is home to the top five most polluted cities in the country, we need action.
Thankfully, after many long hours of debate and negotiations at the state capitol, the California Legislature passed SB 350 (De León) last Friday. The California State Assembly passed the bill, with a 52-26 vote with bipartisan support before passing it on to the senate where it was approved in a concurrence vote. This bill increases California’s renewable energy mix to 50 percent and doubles the energy efficiency of existing buildings. Both of these provisions will serve to combat dirty air and fight climate change, while ushering in a new era for the state’s electricity system – one defined by a cleaner, more resilient, and dynamic electric grid. Read More
Keep reading for an overview or dig right into a new Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) policy brief on transportation fuel prices and the proposed 50 percent fossil fuel reduction for more details.
If you are a movie buff, you might remember Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray’s character had to relive the same day over and over again. Well, if you live in California, you probably feel like the existing gasoline and diesel system is on the same style of hamster wheel (i.e. roller coaster prices, Californians paying more than the rest of the country, and the petroleum industry spending the money you pay at the pump to lobby against any change).
As the 2015 legislative season comes to a close, a new script can be written for the state’s transportation fuel system in the form of SB 350 (De León). This effort would reduce petroleum use by 50 percent and in the process could reduce overall gas prices in California, reduce seasonal and annual volatility, and inject healthy competition into fuel markets that retain and create jobs across the state.
Understanding how SB 350 can help fuel consumers across California is actually pretty simple. Since the vast amount of California’s fuel is sold by a limited number of providers and drivers primarily rely on a single type of specialized fuel (CARB reformulated gasoline) – there is basically no competition in the market or choices available to consumers. Therefore, decisions by fuel providers to fix refineries or upgrade pipelines have impacts that directly affect the price Californians see at the pump, as well as how much profit or loss those same fuel providers experience. With significant profit margins and a massive fuel consumption rate, it’s no wonder the petroleum industry is trying to retain the status quo where they can single handedly inflate gas prices and profits. Read More
Every year at your annual checkup, the doctor measures your blood pressure, listens to your heart, and asks you to take deep breathes while moving around her stethoscope. Through these tests, your doctor is gaining insight into your overall physical health and monitoring for anything unusual. Typically, no news is good news when it comes to this annual physical. The same goes for California’s cap-and-trade carbon market, which has been up and running smoothly for the past two and a half years.
Instead of annual check-ups, California’s cap-and-trade program has quarterly auctions – the results of which tell us a lot about the health of the overall program and the progress the state has made towards its greenhouse gas reduction targets. Consistent and stable results from one auction to the next are a positive indication that the state has a functioning, well-oiled program. In other words, no news is good news.
Last Tuesday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), in partnership with the environmental ministry of the Canadian Province of Quebec (MDDELCC), held one such quarterly auction for cap-and-trade carbon allowances, during which individuals and companies had the opportunity to bid for a total of approximately 83.9 million allowances. Today, CARB and MDDELCC released the results and they reveal yet another successful sale of allowances to the market. Read More