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