Issue Date: April 25, 2016
Oil, natural gas operations now top U.S. methane emitters
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions held nearly steady from 2013 to 2014, increasing a mere 1%, according to an annual inventory released by EPA. But in a key change from previous years, EPA’s report raised methane emissions figures for oil and natural gas drilling and production by 34%. For oil production alone, methane emissions more than doubled. The agency attributed the increase in methane to new data and more accurate calculations. The oil and gas sector now accounts for one-third of U.S. methane emissions, outpacing landfills and livestock production. Methane makes up 10.6% by mass of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions but is a crucial compound because it has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas emitted in largest amounts. The new emission figures for oil and natural gas production are likely to add heat to a long-running debate pitting fossil-fuel advocates against a growing number of atmospheric scientists who say EPA and industry methane leakage figures have been too low. Overall U.S. emissions in 2014 totaled 6,870 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, which compares with 7,442 million metric tons in 2007, the year with the nation’s highest recorded releases of greenhouse gases.
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