Author Archives: Mark Brownstein

Methane: The Next Frontier for European Climate Leadership

uk-oil-and-gasWith 2016 on pace to be the hottest year ever recorded, it’s never been more urgent for countries to work together to protect our climate. Europe, with its long history of climate leadership, has a pivotal role to play in driving the next wave of efforts.

European leadership was central to achieving the historic Paris Climate Agreement, as well as recent breakthrough agreements on carbon dioxide emissions from aviation and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerators and air conditioners.

But there is one critical climate opportunity still to be taken on in Europe, and that’s methane – one of the biggest levers we have today to slow the rate of warming. Read More »

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With New OGCI Accord, Global Oil & Gas Companies Step Into Climate Solutions Game

The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a group of 10 oil and gas CEOs representing 25 percent of the industry’s global production, came together in London today to sign an agreement committing to invest $1 billion over the next ten years to accelerate commercial deployment of low carbon energy technologies. Their primary focus will be carbon capture and storage and reducing oil and gas methane emissions.

Not coincidentally, this accord comes the same day that the Paris Climate Agreement enters into force.

Is $1 billion enough? Of course not. The emission reduction goals the world has set in Paris require nothing less than a fundamental transformation of our global energy system. We must dramatically reduce the total amount of fossil fuels we use – coal, oil, and natural gas – and dramatically ramp up deployment of renewable resources – solar, wind – and aggressively pursue energy efficiency and vehicle electrification.

Jeremy Legget, chairman of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, points out that “the world has to mobilize trillions of dollars a year for clean energy” within a 10 year time frame if the Paris goals are to be realized. Collectively, the ten OGCI CEOs signing today’s accord already plan to spend more than $90 Billion in capital this year alone just doing business as usual, so even by the standards of their own capital budgets, a $1 billion commitment over a decade is a drop in the bucket. Read More »

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Oil and Gas Industry Leaders Begin Waking Up, Stepping Forward on Methane

Vocal opposition from parts of the oil and gas business against policies to limit the industry’s heat-trapping methane emissions can sometimes obscure emerging efforts by some companies to tackle one of the sector’s biggest environmental and reputation challenges – and one that’s becoming ever more prominent by the day.

But not everybody in oil and gas is digging in their heels. In fact, there’s a growing list of companies working in various ways to start solving the problem. None of these initiatives alone is likely to get us where we need to be. But together they’re helping pave the way toward a more comprehensive answer that levels the playing field by creating sensible performance standards for everyone in the industry.

One of these emerging efforts is the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, a voluntary effort to improve emissions reporting and accelerate best practices to reduce methane. Launched at the 2014 United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit, OGMP includes BP, Eni, Pemex, PTT, Repsol, Southwestern Energy, Statoil, and Total. The companies agreed to seek out ways to survey, assess and disclose their methane emissions, and find new opportunities to reduce them. Read More »

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Alberta and Canada Delivering on Methane, Delivers a Cleaner Future for All

alberta_drilling-wellConversations around climate change almost always involve carbon dioxide, with good reason. It’s essential to dramatically reduce this pollutant to drive down the total amount of climate warming our children and grandchildren will experience. But, what we’ve also learned over the last few years is that an effective climate strategy needs to do two things: Reduce cumulative warming and the speed at which this warming is happening.

Methane Matters

Next to CO2, methane is the most impactful greenhouse gas. While it breaks down faster in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, methane packs 84 times more warming power for the first 20 years after it’s emitted.

About one-quarter of the warming we are experiencing today is attributable to human emissions of methane, with the oil and gas industry its largest industrial source. Fortunately, there are cost-effective strategies to reduce methane emissions across the oil and gas industry. There is nothing as quick, easy, or cost-effective at slowing the rate of climate change right now than reducing oil and gas methane pollution. Read More »

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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 »

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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 »

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  • 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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