Prob­lems with Trump’s nat­u­ral gas poli­cies

Financial Times Middle East - - Letters -

Sir, Pilita Clark (“Cli­mate science looks to un­likely ally”, March 17) is in­cor­rect in ar­gu­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pro-nat­u­ral gas poli­cies may help mit­i­gate cli­mate change.

Ms Clark misses two key prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with nat­u­ral gas poli­cies in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. First, meth­ane leak­age. Nu­mer­ous stud­ies (see for ex­am­ple the US En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s re­cent in­ven­tory; the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund’s ex­cel­lent stud­ies; and the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sur­pris­ing 2014 study) and meta-analy­ses have found that most, and per­haps all, of the re­duced car­bon diox­ide emis­sions as­so­ci­ated with in­creased nat­u­ral gas use and pro­duc­tion are off­set by in­creased meth­ane emis­sions.

The Repub­li­can lead­er­ship in Congress has weak­ened the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to re­duce meth­ane emis­sions. Congress re­cently in­val­i­dated crit­i­cal EPA reg­u­la­tions that tar­geted a sub­set of up­stream meth­ane emis­sions. Congress is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing the in­val­i­da­tion of a US Bureau of Land Man­age­ment reg­u­la­tion that ad­dressed nat­u­ral gas vent­ing, flar­ing, and leak­ages on fed­eral and tribal lands.

Sec­ond, the ar­ti­cle ig­nores the harm­ful path de­pen­den­cies as­so­ci­ated with nat­u­ral gas re­liance. Nat­u­ral gas may in­deed com­ple­ment re­new­able en­ergy. For ex­am­ple, nat­u­ral gas tur­bines can pro­vide power on short no­tice, filling the gaps in elec­tri­cal ca­pac­ity that arise when the wind stops blow­ing or a sunny day turns cloudy. But nat­u­ral gas may in­hibit the devel­op­ment of next-gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies needed to sta­bilise the cli­mate. For ex­am­ple, nat­u­ral gas tur­bines may com­pete with en­ergy stor­age providers and “de­mand re­sponse” so­lu­tions that would other­wise fill these ca­pac­ity gaps, weak­en­ing in­cen­tives to in­no­vate. Yume­hiko Hoshi­jima Yale Law School and Yale School of Forestry & En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies, New Haven, CT, US

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