Yesterday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a preview of the World Energy Outlook 2017, noting that harnessing cost-effective reductions of methane from the oil and gas sector would have the same climate benefit as closing down every coal-fired power plant in China.
IEA also found that a 40-50 percent reduction of methane from the sector is possible for no net cost. This new analysis demonstrates exactly why cutting methane pollution from oil and gas matters: big impact for small dollars.
Clean Air Task Force has advocated for limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry for more than a decade. Still, we are often asked, “Why focus on this sector? Why not cows? Or something else?” To help answer those questions, Clean Air Task Force a few years ago documented that reducing methane from the US oil and gas industry by about half would be possible for very low cost. Carbon dioxide emissions must also be addressed, and urgently, but when it comes to low-cost and straightforward actions to help stave off catastrophic climate change, methane from oil and gas is the lowest of the low hanging fruit. And IEA’s new report indicates that the costs of the technologies and practices to reduce methane pollution have continued to decline, making it even easier for companies to clean up their operations and even more timely for governments to establish enforceable standards.
And many governments around the world are indeed looking at establishing methane standards, particularly as shale oil and gas development ramps up. Canada and Mexico are both in the process of developing methane regulations and more than a dozen other countries have expressed an interested in following their lead. The new report from IEA underscores that it will be critical for the momentum to spread beyond North America, and Clean Air Task Force is committed to calling for and supporting fast action on methane globally.
Over time, to achieve our climate goals, in addition to controlling methane emissions from its production and transmission, gas will need to be coupled with carbon capture and storage to remove all gas-related greenhouse gas emissions to near-zero levels.