The Trump Administration is expected to announce a plan on Thursday morning that exempts projects from environmental assessments — making it easier to build pipelines, mines and kickstart other infrastructure projects that would normally undergo environmental reviews.
Robert Howarth is professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University and a faculty fellow at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. He studies the greenhouse gas footprint of methane extracted from shale formations such as the Marcellus Shale and authored a recent study in Biogeosciences, demonstrating that increased emissions from the oil and gas industry have prompted a global spike in atmospheric methane. He says that given the threat posed by climate change, it makes zero sense to build new gas pipelines and infrastructure.
“My research shows that the increased development and use of natural gas in the U.S. over the past decade has contributed substantially to more methane in the atmosphere. Natural gas is composed mostly of methane, and it is not possible to develop and use the fuel without some of it leaking to the air in unburned form. Methane is more than 100 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide, and these increased inputs of methane from our use of natural gas over the past decade have contributed to the unprecedented global warming over this time.
“To meet the goals of the UN COP21 agreement from Paris in December 2015, the world must be moving quickly away from using all fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas emissions, including methane as well as carbon dioxide, need to be cut in half globally within the next 15 years, and should be largely eliminated by 2050. It makes no sense to build new gas pipelines and infrastructure, given this context.”