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Is it Me or Does the EPA’s Draft Methane Rule Smell Funny?

On January 14, 2015 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced that it will release a draft rule aimed at curbing emissions of methane. This new rule will directly target new oil and gas production sources and natural gas processing and transmission. The EPA wants to reduce current emissions of methane up to 45% of 2012 levels by 2015. The Texas Director of Americans for Prosperity found this so antagonistic to business interests that he wrote an open letter asking the Texas Legislature to restrain the EPA.

The rule stands to negatively affect Texas and the state’s businesses and consumers. Since Texas produces about a third of the country’s oil and one quarter of its natural gas, Texas is a huge emitter of methane, which is considered by the EPA to be another warming gas. Methane is sometimes leaked during the oil and gas drilling process. It is possible to fix the methane problem but it is estimated to cost billions of dollars. For instance, industries can replace all their compressor equipment. The industry could capture the methane and possibly sell it. The federal government thinks that that without any intervention, methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are projected to increase by 40 to 45%.

Industry groups, who are skeptical (with good reason) about global warming in general and EPA regulations in particular, have doubted the science claiming that humans are behind global warming. David Porter, Railroad Commissioner lamented that “(t)he EPA’s rules are part of the President’s war on fossil fuels” and believes the rule will hurt Texas’ economy. Indeed, this rule come at a time when oil and gas industries are already struggling. The price of West Texas crude fell by 60% in the past six months. In addition, it is not as if the industry isn’t and hasn’t been aggressive in curbing its own emissions. President of EDI Rich Rynn said “You’d be surprised at the number of (oil and gas) companies that are proactive.” In fact, the industry has already reduced emissions voluntarily, despite soaring production: industry emissions have decreased 12% since 2011.

EPA apologists say that the rule would lead to less waste at a low cost. They further contend the rule will be a boon to the U.S. manufacturing sector and create jobs. A White House fact sheet says the Obama’s plan could save $180 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2025, enough to heat nearly 2 million homes for a year.

So, there are several problems with this rule. First, it is based on a lack of credible science to support the claim that there is a human causative component to global warming. Secondly, the rules are redundant and unnecessary in light of the voluntary efforts of the oil and gas industry. Thirdly,  this regulation is pretty meaningless, even if you ignore the science and believe that human activity causes global warming. The Cato Institute says that EPA regulation is very small, too small to be successful in assisting the slowing of global warming, even if you believe people cause it! It is just one more example of a clunky rule that burdens industries already cutting emissions on their own.Finally, if the oil and gas industry has to comply with this rule, it’s going to result in much higher prices for not just oil and gas, but everything made with petroleum products (think plastic, nylon, etc.)

Has anyone calculated the effect of the hot air at the EPA on global warming?

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