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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Methane Emissions Grossly Underreported

Smoke pollution coming out of industrial area

Marek Piwnicki/Unsplash.com

A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), a Paris-based energy watchdog, found that methane leak emissions from the oil, gas and coal industries are 70 percent higher than official government estimates globally. Satellite data provided significant discrepancies between official figures and actual output. Curbing methane is one of the best ways to keep global warming in check, and the report says oil and gas companies could even profit by plugging their leaks. IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol states, “At today’s elevated gas prices, nearly all of the emissions from oil and gas operations worldwide could be avoided at no net cost.”

The IEA suggests the problem can be avoided by instituting methane monitors and leak-proof equipment, as well as banning the routine practice of burning or venting surplus natural gas. A previous IEA report found that more than 70 percent of oil and gas industry emissions could be addressed with existing technology. Methane, a key ingredient of natural gas, is responsible for 30 percent of the rise in temperatures since the pre-industrial era, and is relatively short-lived. Carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere for centuries, but methane breaks down within a decade.

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