Pollute less, employ more…

jobsaheadBy: Sean Wright, EDF senior analyst, natural gas program, and James Frank, EDF graduate intern

Cleaner air, more American jobs: that’s a potential reality for the U.S. if it acts to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas emitted from oil and gas systems around the country. It’s a significant opportunity, and it’s one California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez encountered first-hand when she toured a Cerritos manufacturing plant last week.

“I am convinced that we can reduce the risks from climate change with American-made products and create more jobs in California while we’re doing it,” the Congresswoman said during her visit.

The energy industry likes to argue that methane controls are expensive, unnecessary, and bad for business, but more and more evidence is surfacing that’s not the case. In actuality, limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations represents a significant economic opportunity. The manufacturing plant, which produces sealing technologies that help control methane leaks, employs 44 people in California’s 38th district. As a subsidiary of the larger US energy services company John Crane, it is poised to grow even larger if the need for more methane mitigation technologies increases.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, a valuable natural resource, i.e. money. And right now billions of dollars’ worth of methane is floating out of the supply chain and into our atmosphere where it is damaging our climate rather than being put to good use heating our homes, creating electricity, and powering our economy. This is an unnecessary waste.

Sánchez’s visit to one of her district’s home-grown employers highlights the need for the business community and government to work together to find winning solutions that benefit the environment and the economy. John Crane’s factory is just one of hundreds across the U.S. that makes cost-effective methane mitigation products, and would stand to benefit should the EPA decide to move forward with federal rules limiting methane emissions from oil and gas activity.

These products—infrared cameras that detect methane leaks and “low-bleed” pneumatic valves that prevent excessive emissions, for instance—are cost-effective for industry. One recent report found that we can eliminate 40 percent of onshore methane emissions over the next five years at minimal cost by implementing these existing products systemwide. Manufacturers have proven, American-made technologies at the ready now to solve this problem. If the policy makers, the gas industry, and manufacturers of mitigation technologies work together to limit methane pollution, all parties involved, plus the environment, stand to come out ahead.

As Sanchez implied during her visit, we must take advantage of the opportunity to use American products to limit harmful methane emissions. By doing this we can simultaneously capture lost profits, help the environment, and give our domestic manufacturing sector a boost.  Reducing the risks of climate change while creating American jobs sounds like a win-win to us.

This commentary originally appeared on our California Dream 2.0 blog.

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