Obama's Plans on Methane Emissions Meet Opposition

Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 01:48 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Climate change won't be settled with a "single bullet solution," including the Obama administration's intention to reduce methane emissions, a plan meeting with opposition from both sides of the equation, says a Forbes.com opinion piece.

Industry is in opposition to "any regulation," writes Forbes contributor Michael Lynch, while environmentalists insist regulations "are never good enough."

But both should "suppress their kneejerk reactions," allowing industry to negotiate guidelines, while environmentalists should "accept a loaf without trying to achieve every last demand," he wrote.

Methane gas plays a major role in global climate change, as methane burning emits even less carbon dioxide than does coal and oil. But environmentalists say switching fuels, rather than eliminating them, is unacceptable.

Environmentalists are "grasping at the greenhouse effect straw" to oppose hydraulic fracking because they haven't found any serious damage from the practice, Lynch writes.

And now that the Obama administration has announced its plan on methane emissions, "the usual suspects have pulled out the knives, intending to strengthen, modify, mutilate or kill any new regulations," he said.

Last week, the Obama administration announced its strategy on methane gases, including plans for the Environmental Protection Agency to assess significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas industry, The New York Times reports.

Additional regulations could be developed by the end of 2016, when Obama will leave office. If the EPA decides to develop additional regulations, it would complete them by the end of 2016 — just before Mr. Obama leaves office.

The administration plans to take several other steps to address methane pollution, including updated standards developed by the Interior Department to reduce venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production on private lands. Also, the department's Bureau of Land Management will begin gathering public comment this month about developing a program to capture and sell methane produced by coal mines on lands that the federal government leases.

But there may be a less expensive way to determine such leaks, Lynch writes.

Mobile units can detect places where there are abnormal amounts of methane, Lynch writes, and as the leaks are typically caused by bad seals and loose valves, fixing them should be easy.

"No doubt it will be found that most of the emissions come from a small fraction of wells and leaks," he said, noting that if the petroleum industry goes after such leaks, it can solve the problems cheaply and contribute to reducing emissions.

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