In a long-anticipated report released in early August, the world’s leading body of climate experts sent a clear message: To stabilize the climate, we can’t focus on carbon dioxide emissions alone. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report put a spotlight on methane, a greenhouse gas much more powerful than CO2, which has been responsible for about 30 percent of the warming the world has seen since pre-industrial times.
Methane is a menace, but tackling it will have near-immediate benefits. The gas breaks down in the atmosphere in a matter of decades, unlike carbon dioxide which persists and warms the planet for centuries. Curbing methane emissions today would slow the rate of global warming amid the longer-term project of weaning the world off fossil fuels altogether.
So how to do this? According to the International Energy Agency, it’s relatively easy and cheap, at least when it comes to cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The IEA released findings last week that the world could get rid of more than 70 percent of the industry’s methane emissions using existing technologies, and about 45 percent of these reductions could happen without hurting companies’ bottom lines.
Methane seeps directly into the atmosphere from oil and gas wells and leaks from the pipelines, compressor stations, and other infrastructure that transport gas from wells to power plants and homes. The IEA highlighted three cost-effective methods to tamp down on this seepage and leakage, all of which could be incorporated into the new EPA rules.
The first is face-palm obvious. Regulators could require companies to do frequent, on-the-ground inspections for leaks, or monitor equipment for leaks with sensors, drones, and satellite imaging, and call for timely repairs. The second is to require use of the most up-to-date, leak-resistant equipment. And the third approach is to outlaw the common practice of burning off or venting any methane that leaks directly from oil and gas wells except in emergencies, and require companies to capture it, instead. The IEA says that the value of the saved or captured gas from each of these moves could, in many cases, be higher than the cost of complying with the regulation. In other words, it might save companies money.
Read the full article about KEYWORD by Emily Pontecorvo at Grist.
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