The United States cannot meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets set by President Barack Obama without “a determined effort” to cut the methane emissions associated with natural gas production and distribution, according to a recent editorial by The New York Times.
“Methane, the major component of natural gas, accounts for roughly 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in this country, but its chemical properties make it a more potent heat-trapping gas in the short run than carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas,” the editorial states.
Obama has promised to address methane emissions as part of his Climate Action Plan, and the White House and Environmental Protection Agency are in the final stages of writing proposed regulations, according to The Times. “The rules should be as tough as possible and national in scope. They can be administered by the states, as many are under the Clean Air Act, but they should be mandatory, not voluntary, as many in the industry have argued,” The Times wrote. “And they should seek to control methane leaks at every stage of the process, including drilling and production at the wellhead, storage and transmission, and distribution. As formidable as it sounds, a coalition of environmental groups estimates that emissions could be halved without any new technologies and at a cost of about 1 percent of industry revenues.”
The Times notes that natural gas produces lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal when burned, but said “that advantage is reduced and could be erased altogether if methane emissions are not controlled.”
To read the New York Times editorial, click here.