As Congress postpones the climate agenda, Biden announces significant reductions in methane emissions

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it plans to combat methane emissions. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is many times stronger than carbon dioxide and has a major contribution to global warming.

The President announced the news on the last day of the United Nations Climate Summit in Scotland, when world leaders announced an international agreement to drastically reduce methane emissions. Represented by the U.S. and Europe, The agreement will require countries to reduce emissions by at least one third from 2020 levels by the end of the decade. So far, nearly 100 countries have signed the pledge.

The proposed rules could have a significant impact on California. Since the 1980s, the state’s oil production has been declining. Fossil fuel companies, some of them have closed down, leaving approximately 35,000 oil and gas wells idle. Many wells have been unplugged, increasing the risk of them leaking methane gas or carcinogenic chemicals.

In a brief speech on Tuesday, Biden called on countries to “go beyond” agreed production cuts and urged more countries to sign. “There is more to join-and should be joined,” he said.

Although they are the world’s largest methane emitters, China, Russia and India have not joined this pledge. Neither Chinese President Xi Jinping nor Russian President Putin attended the meeting in person. Both sides sent messengers.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also announced on Tuesday that European countries will propose new regulations to reduce methane emissions, including requiring oil and gas companies to measure and report their emissions and repair methane leaks.

“We can’t wait until 2050; we must reduce emissions quickly. Methane is one of the fastest gases we can reduce,” she said. She said that if countries fulfill their promises, the additional pollution cuts that usually accompany methane reductions can prevent 200,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of asthma-related hospital emissions.

The rules proposed by the Biden administration came after the White House has grown frustrated as a Democrat in Congress for weeks. Work hard to bridge differences Regarding climate and social policy. These differences prevented Biden from achieving major legislative victories at home because he urged greater international action on climate change.

At the core of the government’s plan is a long-awaited new regulation enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will crack down on methane emissions from approximately 1 million oil and gas wells across the country for the first time.

Some methane emissions occur naturally. But their largest industrial source in the United States is the country’s oil and gas industry.Its main trade organization, the American Petroleum Institute, supported the Trump administration’s decision to abolish methane emission regulations, although these regulations were later cancelled Restored by Congress.

But even the current regulations only apply to new wells drilled or modified after 2015, resulting in more than 90% of the country’s wells being unregulated. The new rules will expand these regulations to cover methane leaks from new and old sources.

According to the government’s proposal, the EPA can continue to monitor emissions from new wells. At the same time, states will be required to develop their own methane regulations for old wells that meet the requirements. And federal guidelines.

US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan (Michael Regan) said on Tuesday that the proposed rule is a “historic action” that will “ensure a vigorous and sustained reduction in pollution across the country.

In a statement referring to the United Nations summit, Reagan said: “As global leaders convene at this critical juncture for COP26 in Glasgow, it is now clear that the United States is back and is leading by example with bold ambitions to tackle the climate crisis. Long after Biden and other government leaders return home, the meeting will last for two weeks.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the new regulations established under the Clean Air Act will reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, which is equivalent to 920 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in terms of environmental hazards. This is more than the carbon dioxide emitted by all U.S. cars and commercial aircraft in 2019.

This degree of influence is possible due to the effectiveness of methane. As the main component of natural gas, methane absorbs heat in the atmosphere 80 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released.

Scientists estimate that about one-third of man-made global warming is caused by methane. They say that reducing methane leaks — and the emission and “burning” or burning of natural gas from oil wells and refineries — may be one of the fastest ways to slow climate change.

California may face major challenges in implementing the proposed regulations. A survey The New York Times and the Center for Public Integrity found in 2020 that oil and gas companies did not allocate sufficient funds to ensure that these oil wells were capped and the surrounding area was safe for nearby residents.

Methane currently accounts for about 10% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, but this proportion is increasing as carbon dioxide pollution decreases.Earlier this year, state officials announced plans to Two satellites into orbit Help them track the hard-to-find “super emitters” of methane and carbon dioxide in 2023.

One of these transmitters Exposed myself last year. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power disclosed at the end of 2020 that its power plants had been leaking methane gas for at least three years, angering residents of the San Fernando Valley.

The Biden government also targets methane emissions through regulations proposed by agencies other than the EPA.

The Ministry of Transportation is preparing to tighten methane regulations governing national oil and gas pipelines. The Ministry of the Interior is formulating rules to limit the company’s ability to burn natural gas at drilling sites on public land.The Ministry of Agriculture plans to alleviate global warming by Pay farmers to store carbon dioxide Through better soil management and other technologies.

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