Author Archives: Mark Brownstein

Industry Study Applies Own Numbers to EDF Study, Strengthens Our Case for Regulation

The natural gas industry group Our Nation’s Energy (ONE) Future Coalition released a paper yesterday applying their own set of assumptions to an earlier analysis commissioned by EDF, which had shown that oil and gas methane emissions can be dramatically reduced for about a penny per thousand cubic feet of gas sold. Both analyses were carried out by ICF International.

We always welcome new points of view, but it's important to note the new calculations change key variables in ways that boost the cost of reducing methane emissions while significantly understating benefits of these reductions. An even bigger problem comes when others in the industry public relations machine start to mischaracterize the study.

Despite these changes, the results still end up making what we think is a strong case for sensible regulatory standards to make sure that best practices become the standard practice industry-wide in order to reduce the oil and gas industry’s nearly 10 million metric tons of yearly methane emissions.

Even Slanted Figures Underscore Need for Rules Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Read 1 Response

Tackling Methane Pollution Even When Oil and Gas Markets are Down

9148692_e7baa12adf_oWhen the White House confirmed plans to limit methane pollution from the oil and gas sector — not just from new or heavily modified facilities, but thousands of existing wells, pipelines and other facilities that are currently emitting at least 9.3 million metric tons of the invisible heat-trapping gas each year — industry responded with the usual complaints about back-breaking costs.

Unlike recent years, those objections come with a twist: The widespread (and very real) challenges in an oil and gas sector struggling with a global supply glut and sharply lower prices, both enabled by the same unconventional production technologies that fueled the boom in the first place. We simply shouldn’t impose new regulations in a down market, the industry says.

To be clear: There’s no disputing these are tough times for oil and gas. Hard working Americans have lost good jobs by the tens of thousands. Communities are suffering. It’s a cycle familiar to anyone who’s been around the industry, even if that doesn't make it any easier on people living through it now. Read More »

Posted in Climate, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Do Lower Gas Prices Alter Conclusion of the ICF Study on Methane Reduction Costs?

hqdefaultLast week, the industry-sponsored Energy In Depth (EID) launched a critique of an analysis by ICF International showing that oil and gas companies can achieve major reductions in their methane emissions at relatively modest cost relative to the price of the natural gas they’re selling. In particular, EID emphasizes that natural gas prices have fallen substantially since the study was done, undercutting the result.

It’s true that natural gas prices have dropped, but the basic conclusion of the study still stands. While commodity prices fluctuate, the fundamental rationale for action hasn’t changed. In fact, over the same timeframe, EPA and other estimates of industry emissions have increased dramatically.

The bottom line is that reducing oil and gas methane emissions remains one of the biggest, most cost-effective opportunities we have for addressing climate change. Read More »

Posted in General, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

When The Polluter Lobby Pollutes The Facts on Methane

The oil and gas industry emits at least 7 million metric tons of methane pollution into the atmosphere each year with a growing mountain of scientific evidence that suggests the real amount is actually even higher. Despite the fact that this pollution has an undue effect on global warming, the industry effectually wants us to “be ok” with this pollution.

The latest piece from industry lobbying group Energy In Depth (EID) claims that recent methane research finds “very low emissions,” and that regulatory action to reduce them further is unwarranted. It isn’t the first time we’ve heard this argument and for that reason, here’s a refresher on the facts.

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Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Read 3 Responses

Fatal Flaws In EPA’s Latest Voluntary Methane Program Highlight Need For Concrete Rules

Barn snip 3The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program unveiled last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a perfect example of what can go wrong when the agency tries too hard to entice an unwilling industry to engage.

For years, EPA has offered voluntary “pollution prevention” programs to encourage companies to achieve environmental goals faster or cheaper than they might under regulations alone. Done right, voluntary programs stimulate innovation and reward true leaders. But weak efforts accomplish nothing, handing out laurels for token efforts that amount to business as usual – or less.

Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Read 2 Responses

The California Gas Disaster: What Comes Next and Where Else Could it Happen?

storage_2013The ongoing leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility owned by Southern California Gas has driven more than 2,000 families from their homes in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles and prompted Gov. Brown to declare a state of emergency. It’s dumped an estimated 83 thousand metric tons of methane into the atmosphere so far (see our leak counter here), with no clear end in sight.

But what are the next steps from here? What are the wider implications of this continuing disaster; and where else could something like this happen? What do we do to prevent another Aliso, and how will Southern California make up for the environmental damages once the leak stops?

The troubling fact is that Aliso Canyon is just the tip of a very big iceberg, reflecting both the industry’s widespread methane problem, and the potential local risks of over 400 other storage facilities nationwide. It spotlights a longstanding, largely invisible problem, promising to shift political dynamics around solutions. And the penalty phase, when it comes, will hopefully codify important principles that will also have a big effect on industry behavior. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Read 2 Responses
  • Vice President, Climate and Energy Program
    Mark Brownstein is a Vice President in the Climate and Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund.

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