There’s no cli­mate ben­e­fit to keep­ing Obama-era rules on curb­ing methane emis­sions

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

A re­cent Sun-Times ed­i­to­rial claims Illi­nois will pay a “painful” en­vi­ron­men­tal price be­cause of the re­cent rescis­sion of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion oil and nat­u­ral gas methane rule and get none of the “mea­ger” eco­nomic ben­e­fits. The op­po­site is ac­tu­ally true.

Con­trary to the ed­i­to­rial board’s as­ser­tion that the rescis­sion of the rule will speed the pace of cli­mate change, there is ac­tu­ally no ev­i­dence the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion methane rule would have yielded any sig­nif­i­cant cli­mate ben­e­fit.

Con­text is key when it comes to methane emis­sions. To­tal U.S. methane emis­sions rep­re­sented just 1.2% of global green­house gas emis­sions in 2018. In fact, it has been es­ti­mated that the elim­i­na­tion of all methane emis­sions in the U.S. would re­duce global tem­per­a­tures less than 0.02 de­grees Cel­sius by the year 2100.

Agri­cul­ture, not oil and nat­u­ral gas, is ac­tu­ally the largest source of an­thro­pogenic methane emis­sions in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to the EPA.

Oil and gas methane emis­sions have also de­clined 23% since 1990 even as pro­duc­tion has sky­rock­eted. This can par­tially be traced to the fact volatile or­ganic com­pound (VOC) emis­sions are al­ready reg­u­lated by the EPA. Tech­nolo­gies used to cap­ture VOCs also typ­i­cally cap­ture methane as well, and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has left the VOC reg­u­la­tion in­tact.

Al­though the Illi­nois up­stream pe­tro­leum in­dus­try isn’t “big oil,” it is a big deal in the largely im­pov­er­ished south­ern por­tion of the state, where roughly 14,000 di­rect and in­di­rect in­dus­try jobs have al­ready been threat­ened by the pan­demic. The repeal of the costly and re­dun­dant Obama-era methane rule could help save many of those jobs, far out­weigh­ing the neg­li­gi­ble cli­mate ben­e­fits the rule would have yielded. Seth Whitehead, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Illi­nois Pe­tro­leum Re­sources Board

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