The Climate Math of EPA’s Costly Methane Rule

While pushing new regulations on methane emissions, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, suggests that her agency still doesn’t fully understand the oil and natural gas industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed new rules targeting methane and other emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, which the agency claims are required to “combat climate change.” The White House is also discussing new methane restrictions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week, part of a broader climate action plan between both countries.

Continue reading on EID Climate.

Comments

  1. In general, the oil and gas industry has already made great strides reducing leaking methane in their operations but seeing as our climate change is so prominent in the minds of people, the O&G industry should recognize the public relation benefits associated with doing all he can to comply with EPA regulations, even when the impact they would have are negligible.

    • Rick Kooi says:

      Yes,
      the oil & gas industry have made great strides…no wait…for the few billions they have actually spent reducing emission…..in exchange for the 3 billion dollars they have invested…..they have received nearly $600 BILLION in corporate welfare subsidies….
      Of that, a chunk has been spent running ads attempting to stop ANY subsidies to CLEAN ENERGY.
      An even bigger chunk has been spent (and continues to be spent) muddying the waters of public opinion on the Very Real Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change.

  2. Alberto Zaragoza Comendador says:

    I’m afraid your numbers are wrong. No way it can be as much as 0.004ºC!

    According to NOAA, the additions to methane levels currently imply a ‘forcing’ (i.e. a warming impact) of 0.003 watts per square meter per year. Actually for the last year with available data, 2014, it’s 0.004 – but for previous years it was less. It’s at the bottom of the page.
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/aggi.html

    Converting from watts/m2 to ºC of temperature rise is voodoo science, so you can plug in your favorite number. The ‘central’ or preferred value among climatologists is 1ºC = 1.33w/m2; this is derived from the fact that a doubling in CO2 concentrations leads to an additional 4w/m2 forcing, and the effect of a doubling in CO2 is supposed to be 3ºC (4 / 3 = 1.33). But nobody knows the real value. Recent estimates of the effect of a doubling in CO2 are more like 1.5 or 2ºC, which would mean it takes perhaps 2 watts per m2 to raise temperatures 1 degree. That would make the following numbers even more grotesque. But let’s give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

    Assuming 1ºC = 1.25w/m2, then methane is contributing 0.003 x 0.75 = 0.00225ºC per year. That means in the remaining 84 years of the century, we would avoid 0.189ºC if we stabilized levels as opposed to letting them continue their galloping rise.

    Now the tricky question is: how much would methane emissions rise if EPA’s rules were implemented? Well, you say the agency estimates 232.4 million tonnes of CO2-eq methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Presumably this includes not just wells but processing plants, storage sites, pipelines, etc.
    http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases.html

    Dividing by the EPA’s multiplier (25) gives us 9.3 million metric tonnes of CH4. 1 part per billion is 2.77 million tonnes, so the emissions the EPA wants to regulate are 3.35ppb/year.
    http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/research/energy/downloads/methaneuk/chapter02.pdf

    Here’s an accounting puzzle: allegedly the US oil and gas industry emits 3.35 ppb/year. Just in the US, and just from oil and gas. And yet, the GLOBAL increase in methane levels is only about 5ppb per year!
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/aggi.fig2.png
    (1790ppb in 2008, 1820 in 2014)

    Clearly, the ‘airborne fraction’ of methane, i.e. the amount of emissions that remains in the atmosphere, must be minuscule. The vast majority of the methane we release into the air is reabsorbed by Mother Nature.

    So the question is: if the US cut its emissions from oil and gas operations by 40%, what would be the effect on methane levels?

    Well, 3.35 x 0.4 = 1.34 ppb/year. Assuming 100% of this decrease translates into reduced methane levels, that means avoiding 113ppb by the end of the century (1.17 x 84). The IPCC says that the 1050ppb increase in the industrial era (from 750 to 1800ppb) has corresponded to a forcing of 0.5w/m2. So another 113ppb would be equivalent to (113 / 1050) x 0.5 = 0.054w/m2. Which, divided by 1.33, is 0.04ºC. Hey, it seems my figure is 10 times higher than yours – but wait a sec.

    (If I remember correctly methane forcing is linear, i.e. 1ppb causes the same warming no matter whether it’s going from 100 to 101 or from 500 to 501. But you might want to check that with someone who knows more than me.)

    Now, what about that airborne fraction? Allegedly global emissions are about 330 teragrams. which is to say 339 million tonnes. That’s 119ppb/year.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane#Emissions_accounting_of_methane

    So it seems airborne fraction is 5/119 = 4.2%. Let’s round that up to 5%, to be on the safe side (a higher airborne fraction means emission reductions have a greater effect on temperature).

    Going back to our 0.04ºC, that means the Obama-Trudeau climate action hurricane will lower temperatures by the end of the century by 0.0016ºC. But even that figure has problems:
    -It takes time for greenhouse gases to fully exert their warming impact. The ‘feedbacks’ that ‘amplify’ their effect (I didn’t make up these words) take decades. And without those feedbacks, you cannot have a value of 0.75ºC per watt/m2; it would be lower, meaning even less temperature impact.
    -Pretty much every recent estimate finds that the effect of a doubling of CO2 (i.e. a forcing of 4w/m2) is quite a bit less than 3ºC, so this effect cannot happen even if you want to wait for it. If for example the effect of a doubling of CO2 was 1.5ºC, that would mean each watt/m2 contributes only 1.5 / 4 = 0.375ºC, instead of 0.75ºC. So instead of 0.0016ºC by the end of the century, we would be talking about 0.0008ºC.
    -I assumed the regulations would be effective from now on, when in fact EPA aims to implement them by 2025.

    So there you have it: if the EPA gets its way, our great-great-great-grandchildren will enjoy a world about 0.001ºC cooler.

    Feel free to use these numbers, or to update the post with them!

    Regards

  3. Scottar says:

    McCarthy is just another Gaia religious worshiping loon. She doesn’t know an oil hole from her blow hole.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Everley of the industry-backed Energy In Depth applied Cato’s analysis to Obama’s new proposal and incorporated updated methane measurements. Everley found Obama’s plan would lead to “0.004 […]

  2. […] new NASA study further bolsters research by Energy In Depth, which shows that EPA’s costly methane rule would account for a […]

  3. […] further bolsters research by Energy In Depth: EPA’s new methane rule would reduce global warming a mere 0.004C […]

  4. […] recent year for which data is available. However, these are revised numbers and may be based on flawed assumptions. EPA appears to have taken emissions data from large reporting facilities and simply assumed that […]

  5. […] Further, the federal government is probably the last place you’d want to start such an inquiry, to say nothing of bringing charges against people. Lynch’s colleague over that EPA, Gina McCarthy, has recently admitted that they don’t even understand how the oil and gas industry works, particularly when it comes to emissions. And even if you accept the assumptions offered as to what particular emissions do to global temperatures the government’s proposed remedies seem highly unscientific. For one example, when actual scientists get a chance to look at the data, they conclude that the current methane rules under discussion would only (possibly) reduce temperatures by .0004 degrees C by 2100. […]

  6. […] At global scale, stopping 45% of methane leakage would help the climate over the next 20 years as much as shutting down one-third of the world’s coal-fired power plants. So don’t let anybody minimize this opportunity as a trivial matter. […]

  7. […] reduce global temperatures by four one-thousandths of one degree by 2100.  Energy In Depth has done the math and found that EPA’s methane regulations, which EDF has been pushing for in every study, will […]

  8. […] targeting the oil and gas industry with new regulations on methane emissions, which account for only about 3.4 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, makes even less sense than the report used to justify those […]

  9. […] Energy In Depth has noted before, EPA’s estimates could be based on faulty assumptions: EPA appears to have taken emissions data […]

  10. […] targeting the oil and gas industry with new regulations on methane emissions, which account for only about 3.4 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, makes even less sense than the report used to justify those […]

  11. […] considered, it begs the question: Will regulations make any difference? Energy In Depth recently did the math using EPA’s 2016 draft inventory estimates and found that that methane regulations would only […]

  12. […] In Depth has done the math and it shows that EPA’s methane regulations will only achieve a reduction in global temperatures […]

  13. […] broader methane mitigation strategy – which includes the EPA’s methane rule – would yield only 0.0047 degrees Celsius of avoided warming the end of the century. The EPA also projected hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits based on […]

  14. […] broader methane mitigation strategy – which includes the EPA’s methane rule – would yield only 0.0047 degrees Celsius of avoided warming the end of the century. The EPA also projected hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits based on […]

  15. […] broader methane mitigation strategy – which includes the EPA’s methane rule – would yield only 0.0047 degrees Celsius of avoided warming the end of the century. The EPA also projected hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits based […]

  16. […] broader methane mitigation strategy – which includes the EPA’s methane rule – would yield only 0.0047 degrees Celsius of avoided warming the end of the […]

  17. […] broader methane mitigation strategy – which includes the EPA’s methane rule – would yield only 0.0047 degrees Celsius of avoided warming the end of the century. The EPA also projected hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits based […]

  18. […] broader methane mitigation strategy – which includes the EPA’s methane rule – would yield only 0.0047 degrees Celsius of avoided warming the end of the […]

  19. […] the presence of super-emitters is what EDF and other advocacy groups have used to try to justify costly new methane regulations from the EPA and other federal agencies. Their theory is that only a handful of sites are […]

  20. […] the presence of super-emitters is what EDF and other advocacy groups have used to try to justify costly new methane regulations from the EPA and other federal agencies. Their theory is that only a handful of sites are […]

  21. […] EID has done the math and found the EPA’s methane rule would yield only 0.0047 degrees Celsius of avoided warming the end of the […]

  22. […] worse, EPA’s new rules will have virtually no impact on global temperatures. Instead, they will make it much more difficult for companies to continue […]

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