Senate restores Obama-era controls on climate-warming methane

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Both the scientific understanding of the role methane plays in driving climate change and the position of the oil and gas industry have changed since the Obama administration first sought to regulate methane pollution. . Scientists now consider gas to play a bigger role in rapidly warming the planet than previously thought, while some major oil and gas companies who fought methane regulations ten years ago now say that they welcome – or at least can work with – the return of the methane rules.

Most of the climate change policies proposed by Mr. Biden are designed to reduce carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning fossil fuels and is the most abundant and damaging greenhouse gas.

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Methane, which comes in second, is mainly emitted by leaks at oil and gas drilling sites. It persists in the atmosphere for a shorter period of time than carbon dioxide, but is more potent as long as it lasts. By some estimates, methane has 80 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

A new United Nations report, compiled by an international team of scientists and slated for publication next month, is expected to state that reducing emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, will need to play a much more vital role in reducing emissions. prevention. the worst effects of climate change.

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The report, a detailed summary of which was viewed by The New York Times, also states that unless there is a significant deployment of unproven technologies capable of extracting greenhouse gases from the air, the expansion of the use of natural gas is incompatible with maintaining global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the International Paris Agreement.

Many large oil and gas companies have spoken out in favor of methane regulation: Exxon, Shell and BP had actually urged the Trump administration to keep Obama’s methane rules in place. These companies have invested millions of dollars to promote natural gas as a cleaner fuel than coal in power plants across the country, as natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide when burned. They fear that unlimited methane leaks could undermine this marketing message and hurt demand.

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Vicki Hollub, chief executive of Occidental Petroleum, a Houston-based international oil company, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that she supported the vote to reinstate methane regulations.

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