EPA last August released a new rule requiring America’s natural gas drilling industry to reduce methane emissions by 40% to 45% in ten years. EPA’s own estimate at global warming to be prevented? An undetectable 0.002 degree Celsius.
The Wall Street Journal rightly opined:
The rule will … do immediate harm to a drilling industry that is already under pressure from falling global energy prices. The shale gas revolution has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, reduced costs for U.S. manufacturers, raised millions in taxes and royalties for government, and increased U.S. energy security. The new costs will reduce the marginal return on drilling, which means fewer new wells.
Our guess is that this is the real political purpose behind the wave of new drilling rules. The Administration has made coal its main fossil-fuel target, but the green lobby also has natural gas in its sights. A frontal assault is too politically risky, which is why regulatory attrition is the preferred approach.
President Obama’s new climate-change rule requires that utilities move rapidly to increase production from solar and wind power, which can only be competitive if natural gas costs rise sharply. The methane rule continues the assault, which is one more reason that the 2016 presidential election is crucial for continuing U.S. energy production.
This is despite the fact that methane, though a powerful greenhouse gas, has pretty much reached its limit for warming Earth’s atmosphere. Why? Because it absorbs (and re-radiates) infrared (heat) only within specific wavelenths, and absorption in those wavelengths is already pretty much complete. I.e., more methane in the atmosphere, no matter how much, will cause next to no additional warming.
As energy expert Mark Mills explains:
Regardless of what one believes about the role of methane as a global warming gas, the EPA action is, at best, statistically trivial.
A two percent increase in the world’s wetlands—a feature of nature that environmentalists and the EPA like and seek to preserve and expand—would generate more new methane emissions than all of the reductions from the new EPA shale rule. And this says nothing about the myriad other natural, manmade and non-U.S. sources of methane.
It defies logic to call the EPA’s regulatory action a “vital step” in anything. And it defies common sense to layer additional rules onto the fledgling shale industry that has been one of the brightest lights in the American economy. The President himself touted the benefits of that industry in the last election cycle. The shale sector has been the single most important source of net new jobs during the long recovery from the Great Recession, and holds prospects for much more yet. In fact, without those jobs, the U.S would have been in technical recession for most of the last six years.
This rule, like so many others EPA imposes to fight climate change, is all pain, no gain.