Source: Tim Evanson Flickr
Today sixteen leaders of the nation’s largest environmental and conservation groups, including EDF’s president Fred Krupp, came together to call for urgent federal action to curb methane emissions from oil and gas development.
This past march, President Obama laid out his Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, where he announced that the Environmental Protection Agency will decide by this fall how best to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. The Strategy builds on the commitment from his 2012 State of the Union Address that the development of oil and gas resources must not put Americans' health and safety at risk.
Here are five reasons why reducing methane is a national priority that requires the Obama administration to follow through on its commitment:
Methane is flared from a natural gas well site.
Bill McKibben is at it again—using his formidable analytical and rhetorical skills to challenge comfortable climate assumptions. In this case, the author and activist puts the heat on politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who argue that natural gas can be a “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon energy future.
Since natural gas emits half the carbon of coal when it’s burned, supporting it gives politicians a way to position themselves as both pro-energy and pro-climate. But writing in Mother Jones, Bill questions whether switching from coal- to natural gas-fired electric generation brings any climate benefit at all.
Because natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas, he points out that if enough uncombusted methane is leaking from the natural gas supply chain, natural gas may be even worse for the climate than coal.
We couldn’t agree more. Read More
Throughout history, maps have played a critical role in shaping our decisions—helping us determine where we are going and how we are going to get there. Now, we’re using them to define a way to address climate change.
Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach have worked together to launch a series of maps that show methane leaks from natural gas pipelines under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island. This new tool has the power to greatly improve cities’ and utilities’ ability to minimize methane emissions that contribute to global warming.
Why care about methane?
A recent tide of scientific studies about losses from the natural gas supply chain has made it clear the critical importance of reducing methane emissions (methane is the primary ingredient of natural gas).
One of natural gas's potential benefits over other fossil fuels is that when burned it produces less carbon dioxide emissions, half as much as coal. If used wisely to rapidly displace dirty coal power plants, for example, natural gas could help the country dramatically reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
Also posted in Methane Tagged Google
Source: Matthew Grimm
Not so long ago, people who worried about pollution in their local environment had few options. Getting answers required hands-on testing by trained experts with specialized equipment, or finding and sifting through scarce, hard-to-come-by data.
Today all of that is changing. A convergence of tech trends – inexpensive sensors, cloud computing and data analysis, and social media – is transforming environmental protection by giving people and organizations like Environmental Defense Fund the ability to collect and analyze huge amounts of information, then publish results for all to see.
Three cars, 15 million readings
We launched one of these powerful projects today.
Thanks to a partnership with Google Earth Outreach, EDF has mapped thousands of natural gas leaks beneath three American cities – Boston, Indianapolis, and New York City’s borough of Staten Island. Using three of the company’s famous Street View cars equipped with special sensors, we gathered millions of individual readings over thousands of miles of neighborhood streets.
The maps are available now, with many more to come. Read More
Yesterday we explored how Wyoming regulators and Governor Mead are making progress on a set of potentially strong air pollution measures in Pinedale and across the Upper Green River Basin of Southwestern Wyoming.
But today a similar drilling boom is happening in Converse and Campbell counties in the northeast area of the state. Unfortunately, none of these strong, sensible new air pollution requirements apply in these areas.
The numbers are stark. A full 80 percent of the current drilling in Wyoming is occurring out in the part of the state with the least restrictive air quality controls. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is currently beginning a process to consider as many as 5,000 new oil and gas wells in Converse County alone, and equal or greater drilling activity is expected in neighboring Campbell County over the next decade.
Good energy policy ideas can come from all corners, and Wall Street is no exception.
Goldman Sachs recently served up a powerful case for action on methane in a stroke of market logic grounded in data. In a recent report, the investment bank argues that environmental regulation is more than a necessary evil when it comes to oil and gas development – it’s a vital enabler for economic growth.
There’s power in diverse groups coming together.
Goldman’s insight for the U.S. oil and gas industry – that the current environmental policy vacuum is a major cause of investor queasiness – suggests that markets can help drive environmental progress. Read More
Also posted in General, Methane
Photo credit: G. Thomas at en.wikipedia
Wyoming is a national energy leader, producing more BTU’s from federal lands than every other state combined. It also has a long history of leading the nation on smart, sensible oil and gas air pollution regulations. The Cowboy State was among the first to require reduced emission completions (RECs or “green” completions) to control emissions from newly drilled oil and gas wells. It has also implemented some of the country’s best requirements to find and fix leaky oil and gas equipment.
The state now has an opportunity to continue this tradition by tightening controls on existing oil and gas pollution sources in the Upper Green River Basin. Draft rules recently released by the state show promise, and with key improvements–including expanded leak inspections and extending emission controls to compressor stations–these new requirements could again emphasize the state’s role as a national leader on oil and gas regulation. Read More
Everyone agrees that burning off as much as a third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is a terrible waste of an important natural resource. The flaring problem arises out of the fact that energy companies are primarily drilling for oil in North Dakota. A lot of natural gas comes out of those very same wells, though; and since the infrastructure isn’t in place to take that gas to market, companies end up flaring gas as a “waste” byproduct of oil production.
This isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight. Building the gathering systems, processing capacity and transmission pipelines to get this gas to market requires major planning and investment. But we also have to recognize that in a capital-constrained world, the incentive is for companies to put their next dollar toward the next oil well – not toward lower-return (but still lucrative) investments in gas infrastructure. If a company’s bottom line was all that mattered, that might be fine. But we have other issues at play here.
Flaring natural gas undermines national energy security, has negative impacts on the region’s air quality, results in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and represents millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state, local governments, schools and mineral estate owners. In fact, in 2012 alone, flaring resulted in the waste of around $1 billion in fuel – or enough gas to heat more than a million homes.
By: Sean Wright, Senior Analyst, Corporate Partnerships
Source: Ash Waechter
Environmental concerns about methane emissions continue to grow as more people understand the negative climate implications of this incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Now the financial community is taking note of not only the environmental risks but the impact of methane emissions on the oil and gas industry’s bottom line. Methane leaks not only pollute the atmosphere, but every thousand cubic feet lost represents actual dollars being leaked into thin air—bad business any way you look at it.
Last week the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)—a collaborative effort aimed at improving corporate performance on environmental, social and government issues—released their provisional accounting standards for the non-renewable resources sector, which includes oil and gas production.
These accounting standards guide companies on how to measure and disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks that impact a company’s financial performance. Their work highlights the growing demand amongst investors and stakeholders for companies to report information beyond mere financial metrics in order to provide a more holistic view of a company’s position.
Courtesy RF, iStock
This week, during a special hearing by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, legislators gathered a cross-section of industry, policy, and environmental leaders to testify about the economic impacts of increased natural gas development. I was one of the witnesses, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, arguing that natural gas can only be a net winner for the economy if government acts fast to limit the impacts of new hydrocarbon development on air, water, and the global climate.
There is no question that unconventional gas development is lowering energy costs, creating new jobs, and supporting more domestic manufacturing. But it also poses real and substantial risks to public health and the environment – as well as a growing threat to the industry’s social license to operate. Continued expansion of U.S. gas development must be balanced with a strong commitment to protect against these impacts.
The congressional committee of both senators and representatives exhibited sharply differing perspectives on expanding natural gas regulation. The core question before all levels of government is whether the appropriate steps are being taken to implement and enforce the regulations necessary to minimize the risks. The answer: not yet.