NOAA’s paper on methane emissions from the Denver-Julesburg Basin was touted this week byNPR as a major clue in the ongoing “detective story” about how much natural gas is lost during the production, transmission and distribution of oil and gas.
Like many other news outlets, NPR does its best to portray methane emissions from oil and gas as a mysterious, lurking threat to the environment:
“A lot of research shows power plants pump out fewer greenhouse gases when they run on gas instead of coal. But no one really knows how much natural gas leaks out when companies are drilling for gas and getting it to power plants. Natural gas is primarily methane. …
Methane is very effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere. And already, natural gas production is the biggest manmade U.S. source of methane. …
The way it is now, the Environmental Protection Agency relies on estimates of methane emissions. They’re based on some measurements of emissions from individual pieces of equipment and lots of complicated math.”
Chilling. Especially the part about complicated math. There’s just one problem – the story about methane emissions isn’t scary at all, once you hear the facts that NPR left out.
True, the EPA’s current estimates say oil and gas systems are the nation’s “largest human-made source of methane emissions.” But even so, the estimated total is still a tiny fraction of overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions – only 3.8 percent, according to the EPA.