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‘No excuse now’: Biden methane regulation comes tech ready

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Jeff Tyson

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it would limit methane emissions from oil and gas rigs — part of a global effort to cut methane levels at least 30% by 2030.

John D. Albertson

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

John Albertson is a professor of civil and environmental engineering focused on sourcing and monitoring industrial methane emissions. His research is aimed at providing solutions to industrial emissions through the mAIRsure project. A 2019 study led by Albertson used a Google Street View car equipped with a high-precision methane sensor and found that methane emissions from the industrial sector have been vastly underestimated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Albertson says:

“While this policy action may seem rather late, given the solid science on methane’s warming potential, it comes at a time when the fugitive emissions measurement technologies are finally ready for broad implementation.

“There are accurate, economic, and robust techniques now that are capable of measuring emissions from all oil and gas sites, thus qualifying the total emissions and identifying the large emitters for rapid mitigation. There can be no excuse now.”  

Robert Howarth

David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology

Robert Howarth is a professor of ecology and environmental biology and a faculty fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability. He studies the greenhouse gas footprint of methane extracted from shale formations such as the Marcellus shale. Howarth authored a study in Biogeosciences demonstrating that increased emissions from the oil and gas industry prompted a global spike in atmospheric methane and showed in more recent research that blue hydrogen, which uses methane from natural gas, may harm the climate more than burning fossil fuel.   

Howarth says:

“Cutting emissions by 30% is a start, and is far better than what any country has done to date, but according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) last May it is relatively easy to cut emissions of methane globally by 40 to 45% by 2030. 

“President Biden is correct that reducing methane emissions is the low-hanging fruit for slowing the rate of global warming. To put a number on that, the UNEP report from last May states that reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 would mean the world would be 0.3 degrees Celsius cooler in 2040 than would otherwise be the case. That's huge, when you realize we have warmed by 1.1 to 1.2 degrees so far, and the target from COP21 (Paris, Dec 2015) is to try to keep the Earth below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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