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A rare opportunity to improve the health of Mexico’s environment and economy

This post originally appeared in Spanish on El Universal.

Not often is a pollutant referred to as an environmental and economic opportunity. But that’s exactly what methane is for countries looking for cost-effective climate solutions and a way to prepare for the 21st century energy economy. And it’s especially important for Mexico right now, as changes in energy laws have opened the doors to a slew of new exploration projects that could reshape Mexico’s oil and gas industry and boost economic growth through 2025.

Methane is the main ingredient of natural gas. When burned, natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels. But when it escapes unburned, as it does across the global oil and gas industry, methane is 80 per cent more powerful a heat-trapper than carbon dioxide in the short term. Methane also contributes to local air pollution, including smog, and the health impacts that come with it. It’s not just countries that are aware of this. A growing number of investors and energy companies are responding to the reputational threat of uncontrolled methane emissions.

Released last week, the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook articulates the methane challenge very powerfully. Its analysis shows that with current technologies the oil and gas industry can drastically reduce methane emissions by 75 percent worldwide – and that up to two thirds of those reductions can be realized at zero net cost. What’s more, the IEA says that just the cost-effective reductions would have the same climate impact in 2100 as immediately closing all the coal plants in China.  Read More »

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Cautionary Tale for Mexico on Oil and Gas Climate Pollution


splash-with-citationNew findings by NASA scientists attributing a giant, invisible cloud of methane – nearly 5 times the size of Mexico City – over the southwestern U.S. to the region’s sprawling web of oil and gas facilities raise important new concerns not just on this side of the border, but for Mexico as well.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. Scientists estimate that methane contributes to about 25 percent of today’s warming. Cleaning up methane also reduces other pollutants: both ozone precursors that affect air quality and air toxics that erode human health.

The recent NASA paper linking the methane cloud to production, processing and distribution of oil and natural gas also notes that just a small portion of these sites, about 10%, were responsible for more than half the emissions. This is just the most recent example of a long list of scientific studies that have found that subset of sites or facilities disproportionately account for the majority of emissions. Scientists have called this subset of sites super-emitters. Read More »

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Una Clara Advertencia Para México Acerca de la Contaminación Climática de su Industria Petrolera

Un estudio publicado recientemente por científicos de la NASA contribuyó a encontrar al responsable de una gran nube invisible de metano extendiéndose en el suroeste de los Estados Unidos y cuyo tamaño es 5 veces más grande que la Ciudad de México. El estudio permitió atribuir este foco de emisiones a la creciente red de instalaciones de la industria petrolera en dicha región – Este descubrimiento levanta preocupaciones no solo para nuestros vecinos del norte, sino también para México.

El metano es un gas de efecto invernadero extremadamente potente. En los primeros veinte años después de ser emitido, el metano es más de 80 veces más potente en calentar la atmosfera que el dióxido de carbono. Los científicos estiman que el metano contribuye aproximadamente a 25% del calentamiento que ya experimentamos hoy en día. En adición a sus implicaciones climáticas, reducir sus emisiones también permite reducir otros contaminantes que se emiten en conjunto con el metano: tanto precursores de ozono que afectan la calidad del aire, como tóxicos que afectan la salud humana. Read More »

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