Never one to shy away from setting ambitious goals, the Obama administration recently announced its plans to tackle climate change, which are centered around reducing methane emissions by 45 percent in the next ten years.
After the announcement, players from both sides of the issue chimed in. The Natural Resources Defense Council said the methane rules are “an important start,” but that they and other environmental groups are still critical of Obama’s plan. Because it focuses on new oil and gas sites rather than existing ones, they feel stronger action must be taken to regulate existing sources of pollution.
On the other hand, the American Petroleum Institute has called these additional regulations unnecessary. “Methane emissions have fallen thanks to industry leadership and investment in new technologies. And even with that knowledge, the White House has singled out oil and natural gas for regulation,” CEO Jack Gerard said.
Obama’s Methane Rules at a Glance
Here are the main points you should understand about Obama’s plan of attack:
The Focus is on Methane
The Obama administration is tackling global warming by specifically focusing on methane emissions as opposed to reducing other sources of pollution. White papers released last April suggest the White House’s current plan will build on a set of restrictions proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012. The plans is to attack emissions along the entire supply chain from wellhead, to processing plants, to the supply lines that carry the gas.
But Only at New Facilities
The methane rules will only apply to “new and modified oil and gas production sources.” The White House’s plan will take the same noncommittal approach toward existing facilities it took in 2012 by simply setting standards for other pollutants that will cause an indirect reduction of methane.
“Failing to immediately regulate existing oil and gas equipment nationwide misses 90 percent of the methane pollution from the industry,” said Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group.
The White House has defended its focus on new facilities because “that’s where the investment is, that’s where the increases in emissions are coming from.”
How many processing facilities will be considered existing under Obama’s new rules? It is not immediately clear. What we do know is there are more than 500 gas processing plants and roughly 1.1 million active oil and gas wells. That’s a lot of methane.
Success Requires Other Agencies Step Up to the Plate
The White House has made it clear that in order to reach its lofty goal of reducing methane emissions by 45 percent in the next ten years, other agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will have to do their part and introduce stricter standards of operation as well.
A Global Fight
Back in 2013 the United Nations organized a meeting of envoys from 190 nations to discuss a treaty aimed at cutting fossil-fuel emissions worldwide to advance the war on global warming. The talks focused on a “loss and damage” mechanism whose aim is to assist those developing nations that are coping with natural disasters, such as floods and erosion caused by higher temperatures.
With an all-hands-on-deck approach to global warming, the world is perhaps in a position to avoid many of the catastrophic levels of loss and damage that will occur should temperatures continue to rise. The loss and damage that will inevitably occur from the unavoidable temperature rise can be avoided if nations take effective adaptation measures in advance.
The problem is the amount of global adaptation has been so inadequate that there will no doubt be loss and damage in the future. And this loss and damage will solely be a result of human-induced climate change. How the world’s nations plan on dealing with this inevitable loss and damage will need to be further discussed in order to find a collaborative solution.
Featured photo courtesy of: Common Dreams
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