Both the scientific understanding of the role methane plays in climate change and the position of the oil and gas industry have changed since Obama’s administration first tried to regulate methane pollution. Scientists now see that gas is playing a bigger role in rapidly warming the planet than previously thought, while some large oil and gas companies who fought methane regulations a decade ago are now saying they welcome, or at least so, the return of the methane rules can work.
Most of the climate action proposed by Mr Biden aims to reduce carbon dioxide, which is the result of burning fossil fuels and which is the most abundant and harmful greenhouse gas.
Methane, which is barely a second, is released primarily through leaks in oil and gas wells. It stays in the atmosphere for a shorter time than carbon dioxide, but has a larger breakdown as long as it lasts. According to some estimates, methane has 80 times the thermal storage capacity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the first 20 years.
A new United Nations report, prepared by an international team of scientists and slated for release next month, is expected to declare that reducing methane emissions, the main constituent of natural gas, must play a far more important role in preventing the worst effects of the Climate change.
The report, the detailed summary of which was viewed by the New York Times, also says that expanding the use of natural gas is incompatible with sustaining global warming unless there is significant use of unproven technologies that remove greenhouse gases from the air Can be drawn 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the international Paris Agreement.
Many large oil and gas companies have spoken out in favor of methane regulations: Exxon, Shell and BP actually urged the Trump administration to uphold the Obama methane rules. These companies have invested millions of dollars in promoting natural gas as a cleaner fuel than coal in the country’s power plants, since natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide when burned. They fear that unconditional methane leaks could undermine that marketing message and reduce demand.
On Wednesday, Vicki Hollub, the executive director of Occidental Petroleum, an international oil company based in Houston, told a Senate committee that she supported the vote to reintroduce methane regulations.