The Scranton Times Tribune - Editorial
By the Editorial Board
August 20, 2015
The Obama administration’s proposed rule to reduce the amount of methane leaked from oil and natural gas production has special resonance in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Gas production is hailed here as a single answer to economic and environmental problems. It creates and supports thousands of jobs across Pennsylvania, and gas has become the fuel of choice for power production. It has become cheaper than coal and its combustion is cleaner, producing half or less of the carbon dioxide as coal for the same amount of power.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas emission, and reducing it is one key to mitigating global warming. That’s why many states, including Pennsylvania, consider increased use of natural gas a principal means of complying with new federal rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
But methane, the principal constituent of natural gas, itself is among the most potent of greenhouse gases. It is 28 to 36 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere so there must be a premium on containing it. Otherwise, the environmental benefits of natural gas dissipate.
The matter is much more urgent due to an new analysis in the journal Energy Science and Engineering. Touché Howard, a gas consultant, author of the paper and developer of part of a device to measure leaked methane at well sites, contends that methane emissions from production might be many times greater than official estimates.
Gas companies have an inherent interest in preventing methane leaks because methane is what they sell. When the gas escapes, so does the money that companies otherwise would get for the lost product. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the industry has reduced emissions by about 38 percent as production has increased by 35 percent. But containment has its own costs that also diminish profits.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that methane accounted for about 10 percent of total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012, with the oil and gas industry responsible for almost a third of the emissions.
Tuesday, the Obama administration announced proposed new regulations to account for methane that make sense for the environment and for responsible development of the gas industry for the long haul.
The new rule will require companies to upgrade pumps and compressors to preclude leaks and to expand the use of methane-capturing equipment.
Reducing methane leaks is in the interest of the environment and the industry, and a means of ensuring the continued growth of natural gas as a fuel of choice. The rules should be implemented.
Read the full article here.