Atmospheric methane continues to rocket up at record rates

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 08 Apr 2022 17:34:00 GMT

Atmospheric methane continues to rocket up at record rates, NOAA reported yesterday. As fracking booms, methane levels increased by 17 parts per billion in 2021, breaking the 2020 record of 15.3 ppb. Concentrations of this powerful greenhouse pollutant are now 162 percent of their pre-industrial levels, as the Biden administration pushes for more natural gas production and export.

I will take this moment to remind readers that the EPA is undercounting methane pollution by 77 percent.

The essential Kate Aronoff castigates the incoherence of Democrats in Congress who claim to care about the climate crisis begging oil CEOs to increase fossil-fuel production, instead of acting to take their billions in windfall profits and stop their greenhouse pollution:

Appealing to these CEOs’ better angels is pointless. Although they hand fossil fuel companies billions in subsidies each year, American policymakers mostly confine themselves to begging or berating them into doing what they want.

As Adam Tooze writes in his review of three recent books by Andreas Malm:

To harp on the climate crisis while doing nothing about it is, in the long run, intolerable. Liberals’ failures make Trump look honest. He may deny the science, but at least he’s true to himself.

The EPA is undercounting methane pollution by 77 percent

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 23 Feb 2022 18:35:00 GMT

The oft-repeated claim that the United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse pollution since 2005 by switching from coal to gas depends on the EPA’s official accounting that methane pollution has declined during the fracking boom, an implausible scenario.

Today, the International Energy Agency revealed in a major report that methane pollution from the fossil-fuel industry is 70 percent higher than official figures globally. Their Global Methane Tracker finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been seriously undercounting methane pollution. The IEA estimate of 2021 methane pollution is 77 percent higher than the EPA’s inventory:


United States methane pollution from energy sources in 2021. EPA estimate: 9,600 kT; IEA estimate: 17,000 kT

Not surprisingly, that cancels out all the purported climate benefits of switching electricity production from coal to natural gas.

Furthermore, the U.S. EPA calculates the effect of methane on global warming by using its impact over 100 years, which is about 30 times that of CO2, instead of more scientifically defensible dynamic measures that take into account methane’s 20-year impact, which is 86 times that of CO2.

3/7/20 Update: Russia invaded Ukraine the day after the IEA report dropped, so that may help explain why this report didn’t get too much attention. However, the oil and gas industry are claiming the invasion means we have to drill everywhere, and the Senate Energy Committee found time to attack FERC for regulating methane pollution. So I think there’s capacity to discuss this report and its shattering implications, which include the need for the United States to shut down the fracking boom as fast as humanly possible.

Climate Justice Components Of Build Back Better Agenda Have Been Pared Back, With Further Cuts Possible

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 28 Sep 2021 17:14:00 GMT

In its reconciliation package, the House of Representatives restored some of Biden’s requested funding for climate justice measures that had been slashed by the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan deal, but massive cuts remain.

If the White House heeds the “no double dip” deal it made with Senate centrists, the House funds will be eliminated.

Two Build Back Better climate-justice programs that were cut in the Senate’s infrastructure package (known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, or BIF) are funded at or above President Biden’s requested levels:

  • Building electric vehicle charging stations, raised $15 billion to $21 billion
  • Replacing the nation’s lead pipes, fully restored to $45 billion

However, most face massive cuts, with no prospect for improvement:

  • Reconnecting minority communities cut off by highway projects, cut 79% from $24 billion to $4.95 billion
  • Investing in electric school buses, cut 63% from $20 billion to $7.5 billion
  • Road safety, including “vision zero” programs to protect pedestrians, cut 45% from $20 billion to $11 billion (only $100 million added)
  • Upgrading and modernizing America’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, cut 40% from $56 billion to $33.7 billion
  • Repairing and modernizing public transit, cut 36% from $85 billion to $54 billion
  • Broadband infrastructure, cut 31% from $100 billion to $69 billion
  • Investing in passenger and freight rail, cut 5% from $80 billion to $76 billion
Furthermore, the House added on additional funding for the programs that act as bailouts for polluters:
  • Capping orphan wells, increased to $18.5 billion, 16% over Biden’s request
  • Brownfield and Superfund, increased to $20 billion, three times Biden’s request

The BIF includes the Civil Nuclear Credit Program, a $6 billion bailout fund for existing nuclear plants.

The Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) is a major climate initiative in the House reconciliation package, establishing a sort of carbon cap-and-trade system for electric utilities with the goal of increasing low-carbon electricity production to 80 percent of the mix by 2030. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has indicated his desire to modify the CEPP to lower its standards to support natural-gas plants.

WonkLine: June 5, 2009

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 05 Jun 2009 13:10:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.
cow1600jpg

The New York Times reports that “cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants” instead of corn and soy, reducing their enteric methane emissions (burps) by 18 percent, without any loss in milk production.

President Obama may attend world climate talks in Copenhagen this December, marking the first visit to the annual U.N. conference by a sitting U.S. president since George H.W. Bush’s 1992 trip to Rio de Janeiro,” according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

The Washington Post finds that “corporate lobbyists have won billions of dollars of subsidies in the Waxman-Markey green economy legislation, including $500 billion for electric utilities and $12 billion for the auto industry.

Methane Levels Surging

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 30 Oct 2008 14:30:00 GMT

The MIT News Office reports:
The amount of methane in Earth’s atmosphere shot up in 2007, bringing to an end a period of about a decade in which atmospheric levels of the potent greenhouse gas were essentially stable, according to a team led by MIT researchers.

Methane levels in the atmosphere have more than tripled since pre-industrial times, accounting for around one-fifth of the human contribution to greenhouse gas-driven global warming. Until recently, the leveling off of methane levels had suggested that the rate of its emission from the Earth’s surface was approximately balanced by the rate of its destruction in the atmosphere.

However, since early 2007 the balance has been upset, according to a paper on the new findings being published this week in Geophysical Review Letters. The paper’s lead authors, postdoctoral researcher Matthew Rigby and Ronald Prinn, the TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, say this imbalance has resulted in several million metric tons of additional methane in the atmosphere. Methane is produced by wetlands, rice paddies, cattle, and the gas and coal industries, and is destroyed by reaction with the hydroxyl free radical (OH), often referred to as the atmosphere’s “cleanser.”

The cause of the surge is unclear, particularly as it appears methane levels are well-mixed across the globe, although most methane emissions occur in the northern hemisphere. A disturbing possibility is that OH levels are declining, which could set off a catastrophic vicious cycle of rising methane and declining OH.