By David Nelms, March 28, 2014
The Obama administration has announced, on Friday, a strategy to reduce the emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is secreted from landfills, cattle, and leaks from oil and natural gas production. This methane strategy is one of the many ways in recent memory that the Obama administration is looking to address climate change without getting legislation from Congress. The administration acknowledges that individually these changes will not add up to much, but collectively they hope that they will make a huge impact by building political support and showing the world that the United States takes protecting the environment extremely seriously.
Environmental advocates have been pressuring the Obama administration to take action towards targeting methane emissions. While methane accounts for only nine percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution, the gas is much more potent than carbon dioxide, meaning that even a small amount of it in the environment can cause an alarming impact. And this follows with news that methane emissions are expected to increase in the United States as the nation enjoys increased vigor in oil and natural gas production. This is worrisome because a study from the journal Science has reported that methane is leaking out of natural gas and oil drilling sites at a rate that is fifty percent higher than what was previously expected. So while good for the American economy, the increase in methane secretion out into the environment is an issue that needs to be addressed with prompt legislation.
A White House official said, on Friday, that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would take a look at potentially significant levels of methane emission and “will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources.” They said that they are going to do the research this spring and will have answer by the fall of this year. If there are any additional regulations that the EPA will want to enforce, it will come in 2016 at the end of President Obama’s presidential occupancy.
Advocates of cutting methane emissions have been overall supportive of the plans that the Obama administration has put into place. Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate change aide said that “Cutting methane emissions will be especially critical to climate protection as the U.S. develops its huge shale gas reserves, gaining the full greenhouse gas benefit from the switch away from coal.” And farmers will not have to worry, because the changes of emission from cattle have been made voluntary so far; this means that farmers should take what the administration is saying into strong consideration although they do not necessarily have to implement any of the strategies.
Overall, it appears that the Obama administration is taking firm steps towards reducing methane emissions. These emissions, while not a huge percentage of greenhouse gases, are extremely toxic and are polluting our air and the physicality of our environment. Hopefully the administration will take the research that they gather and make further changes to support climate reform.