This was written by Jeremy Symons, Senior Director for Climate Policy at Environmental Defense Fund.
The droughts in the west and the rains in the east this week are compelling reminders that the impacts of climate change are here and now. Just this week the Pentagon issued a report laying out how they will adapt to growing threats to our nation’s defenses in the face of climate change. We need to act now to reduce the pollution from coal, oil, and natural gas that is making climate change worse and move aggressively to clean, renewable energy sources.
People and organizations throughout the nation – and across the globe – are working to bring about the transformation that can build a strong clean energy economy at the pace needed to match the urgency of the climate change we are now experiencing.
Even as this work continues, a growing number of voices are calling for action to cut potent methane emissions from our oil and gas industry – one of the biggest sources of climate pollution in the country. We cannot afford to ignore real opportunities to cut pollution right now from any source, including the fossil fuel energy sources that make up the bulk of our energy use today.
Cutting methane from the oil and gas sector is particularly important for slowing the rate of climate change. About one-quarter of the warming we are experiencing today is a result of methane, and the oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the nation. During the first 20 years of life of a child born today, a ton of methane will have 80 times the warming impact as a ton of carbon dioxide, another major source of climate change. Cutting methane leaks from the oil and gas system in half would reduce greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to the emissions from 90 coal-fired power plants.
From grassroots activists across the country to investors on Wall Street, there is an emerging call from all sides supporting national regulations to curb methane from the oil and gas sector for the good of our health, economy, and climate.
Just yesterday 130 grassroots groups asked President Obama to curb methane and air pollution from oil and gas development. As they expressed, this does not make oil and gas a replacement for clean energy, but smart national standards are needed “to protect communities living with oil and gas development and to help curb further global warming.”
Their letter comes a week after the BlueGreen Alliance, which represents 10 labor organizations, and 5 environmental groups, attested that a strategy to mitigate climate pollution from oil and gas development presents an important opportunity to reduce waste in our energy sector while fighting climate change and creating good manufacturing and service jobs for American workers.
Top investors are also speaking out. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer joined other investors last week calling on EPA to enact strong national methane regulations. In their letter they warned unchecked greenhouse gasses are “threatening infrastructure and economic harm that are bad for the economy and bad for investors,” and a comprehensive national methane strategy will reduce business risk.
This urgency to act and clean up methane pollution from the oil and natural gas industry echoes the call from 16 top conservation and environmental leaders last month. They asked Obama to follow through on his commitment and timeline to address the problem of methane pollution this fall.
The science and economics confirms the message from this growing choir of voices; this is the time to move forward. Reducing methane emissions—along with carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases—is in all of our best interests.
President Obama has created an opportunity to do something about this threat by directing EPA to look at ways to regulate methane pollution from the oil and gas industry and make a decision this fall. It’s the moment of truth, and EPA should act to cut methane pollution from oil and gas in half.
Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com