EPA’s New Methane Rule Won’t Slow Global Warming, Actually Increases CO2 Emissions

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled new rules Thursday attempting to reduce methane emissions from hydraulically fractured, or fracked, oil and natural gas — these rules, however, may actually lead to more global warming.

The agency does not list the amount of temperature increases adverted in the rule’s press release, even though the rule exists just to limit global warming. Industry groups estimate the rule would only cause a temperature drop of 0.0047 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, an amount so small it couldn’t even be detected.

The regulation even has the potential to make global warming worse, as it will make producing natural gas harder, leading to more release of CO2 emissions — the primary driver of global warming — according to a 2014 EPA report. The report concluded that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 fell to their lowest levels in 17 years, largely due to hydraulically fractured natural gas out-competing coal as a power source.

“The Regulatory Impact Analysis for the final rule shows that the rule is expected to have extremely minor impacts on production – less than 1/10th of 1 percent,” a spokesperson for the EPA told The Daily Caller News Foundation about inhibiting the production of fracked natural gas via regulation.

The EPA has noted that rising natural gas use from fracking is responsible for falling greenhouse gas emissions, saying in an April report, “a decrease in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed to generate electricity has occurred due to … increased natural gas consumption and other generation sources.”

Methane only accounted for 10.6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in 2014, according to the EPA report. Most of these methane emissions were from agriculture, not the natural gas industry, which only accounted for about 2.6 percent of emissions.

Critics say that the EPA’s methane rules could significantly increase the costs of fracking.

“The methane rules are designed to make drilling new wells much more expensive. It is one step toward achieving the goal of ‘leave it in the ground,'” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, told TheDCNF. “Other steps include the BLM’s methane rule for production on federal lands, the EPA’s forthcoming methane rule for existing production, and the Interior Department’s coal leasing moratorium on federal lands.”

A report by the firm ICF International, which cited 75 scientific studies and EPA reports, concluded that methane emissions are declining in both absolute terms and per unit of natural gas produced, despite an enormous increase in the amount of gas produced.  Absolute methane emissions from natural gas fell by 15 percent between 1990 and 2014, and emissions per unit of natural gas produced dropped by 43 percent over the same period.

The report found that net greenhouse gas emissions are decreasing, which does not bode well for anti-fracking campaigns or the EPA’s new methane regulations. The new gas production has caused America to transition to clean burning natural gas-fired power plants, which emit far less CO2 than conventional coal power, leading to a 12 percent decline in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups assert the environmental advantages of fracking are negated by increased methane emissions, but this claim isn’t supported by science. Methane emissions matter because they cause 25 times more global warming per unit of gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a time period of 100 years, according to the EPA. The Sierra Club claims that methane is 87 times more potent.

“These regulations aren’t about climate. They are about increasing the cost of reliable, affordable energy to make Mr. Obama’s pet energy sources, such as wind and solar, appear more cost effective than they actually are,” Thomas Pyle, president of the conservative, said about the methane rule in a press release. “And while these regulations won’t impact the climate, they will increase the cost of natural gas for American families that just want to keep their houses warm, have hot water, and use their dryers.”

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