Could the Government Be Vastly Underestimating U.S. Methane Gas Emissions?

Knowing how much of the gas exists in the atmosphere is crucial, but pinning down a national emissions estimate is proving to be tricky.

An oil drilling rig, a producer of methane gas emissions, near Watford City, N.D.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
Nov. 25, 2013, 10:20 a.m.

While it ranks far behind carbon dioxide in total emissions, methane is the second most common greenhouse gas emitted in the U.S. from human activities, accounting for 9 percent. Its lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than that of carbon dioxide — about 10 years — but methane is better at trapping and holding onto radiation than the other gas. Pound for pound, methane’s effect on climate change is 20 times that of carbon dioxide over 100 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Knowing how much of the stuff exists in the atmosphere, then, is crucial for lawmakers and scientists alike, who collaborate on national and state greenhouse-gas reduction plans. Pinning down a national estimate, however, is proving to be tricky.

Earlier this month, a pair of senators asked EPA to reconsider its estimates of methane emissions from natural-gas operations, and even rethink how it measures atmospheric methane, at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. David Vitter, R-La., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., cited a September report funded by the Environmental Defense Fund and several gas operators that said the gas industry emits 10 percent less methane than what EPA’s inventory indicates.

And now, research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the government database may underestimate the true values of U.S. methane gas emissions by 50 percent.

Researchers traced atmospheric methane measurements across North America in 2007 and 2008 back to known emissions-producing sites, such as landfills, livestock ranches, and oil and gas facilities.

Emissions from oil and gas drilling in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, researchers found, were nearly triple that of most inventories, and almost five times higher than the the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research, the most commonly used global emissions inventory.

EPA’s latest report from its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program showed that methane-gas emissions have slightly decreased in recent years in some industries such as fossil fuels and petroleum and natural gas.

The agency is not oblivious to the discrepancies that exist between its own measurements and those of civil scientists. “EPA has not yet had the opportunity to fully review the PNAS study on methane emissions,” the agency said in a statement to National Journal. “However we are encouraged that more methane emissions measurement data are now available to the public. Research studies like these will add to our knowledge base of [greenhouse gas] emissions and will help us refine our estimates going forward.”

If EPA’s own measurement data is not immune to change, it’s unlikely that state-level and other nations’ greenhouse-gas emissions inventories are either, especially as the technology that measures the potent gas and where it originates continues to develop.

What We're Following See More »
FACES STIFF OPPOSITION FROM BOTH PARTIES
Trump Proposes 95 Percent Cut To Office of Drug Control Budget
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

Trump wants to move the two grants, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant and the Drug Free Communities Act, to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, respectively. This would result in a $300 million plus reduction in funding, about 95 percent of the cost of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "'I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,'" said Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP chief of staff during the Obama administration. This is the second time the Trump Administration has proposed gutting the agency.

Source:
HOPES A DEAL CAN GET DONE
Schumer Meeting with Trump for Last-Ditch Meeting
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
BLURRY LINE BETWEEN BUSINESS/PRESIDENCY
New CREW Report Identifies 500 Conflicts of Interest in Trump’s First Year
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

A new report assembled by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has identified more than 500 potential conflicts of interest in President Trump's first year. First, the report notes, Trump spent 122 days at his properties during his first year. He has been accompanied by 70 federal officials and 30 members of Congress. "Second, far from this signaled access to power being an empty promise, those who patronize President Trump’s businesses have, in fact, gained access to the president and his inner circle." Lastly, about 40 special interest groups and 11 foreign governments have held events at Trump properties.

Source:
BY SCALISE
House Told to “Stay Flexible”
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS
“NOT THE RIGHT TIME”
J.D. Vance Bows Out of Senate Run
4 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login