As the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine drags on, the world is focused on finding a substitute for Russian natural gas. Meanwhile, every year America loses nearly $2 billion worth of natural gas (in the form of methane) due to faulty equipment or inefficient practices such as venting and flaring at oil well sites. and gas. It makes no sense geopolitically or for our environment.
Colorado and New Mexico are creating a plan for the nation to reduce methane waste and pollution with oil and gas regulations that deliver environmental, public health, and economic benefits. Last year, New Mexico joined Colorado in banning venting and flaring, and is set to require full leak inspection and repair, including on small leak-prone well sites. . Historic state efforts like these make economic sense for operators and common sense for protecting communities and the environment in energy-producing states. As federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management consider new oil and gas regulations, they should follow the lead of Colorado and New Mexico with the same sensitive methane protections. .
In addition to wasting a precious resource, oil and gas emissions contribute to dangerous levels of smog and air pollutants that harm the health of all Americans. And methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term. The war in Ukraine makes it even more urgent to align strong state and federal protections as oil and gas development increases.
The good news is that we have the technology and know-how to reduce methane waste and pollution from oil and gas operations while creating jobs and increasing local, state and federal tax revenue. The methane mitigation industry is experiencing massive growth as policymakers have moved to reduce methane pollution and waste through new regulatory requirements. In states with strict methane rules, like Colorado, oil and gas companies are cutting emissions and fixing leaks to stop wasting energy even as they grow.
Methane waste on federal lands alone means that every year $50 million in federal revenue is lost, funds that are badly needed for infrastructure investments and other priorities in the West, including on lands tribal. This wasted gas is enough wasted fuel to meet the annual needs of 2.1 million homes (almost as many as all of New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming combined).
The outdated practice of venting and flaring natural gas for convenience has no place in an emerging energy economy that can reduce waste and harmful impacts on overburdened communities and the environment. And investors and big business are demanding action. A recent report, Find, Measure, Fix: Jobs in America’s Methane Mitigation Industry, found that “75% of manufacturing companies and 88% of service companies said that if future state or federal rules on methane emissions were put in place, they would expect to hire more employees.” The industry’s service sector has nearly doubled in size since 2017, while the number of manufacturing companies has grown by a third since 2014. And more than 200 companies with more than 750 locations across the country supply products and services to help the oil and gas industry reduce emissions.
Finalizing tough state and federal rules on methane is a win-win situation, creating benefits for public health, energy security, and economic benefits. The methane mitigation industry is a proud partner in creating a new, cleaner energy economy and is poised for growth with the right policy drivers in place. The sooner we align tough state and federal rules to end venting and flaring and find and fix leaks, the sooner we will reap the benefits.
Isaac Brown is director of the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions.