Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted September 13, 2018
Let’s push back against a narrative springing up around EPA’s proposed improvements to the 2016 standards on emissions from new natural gas and oil production sources – which the agency says will streamline implementation, reduce duplication with state requirements and decrease unnecessary burdens on domestic energy producers.
First, while API reviews EPA’s proposal, it’s important to note that it appears the rule will continue to protect public health and reduce emissions through standards that are smarter, science-based and that promote greater cost-effectiveness – while industry keeps on delivering the energy Americans use every day.
The narrative is based on a mythology that natural gas and oil companies don’t care about emissions and won’t develop new technologies and innovations to capture more and more emissions unless Washington makes them do it. False and false.
Posted August 21, 2018
EPA’s recent decision not to revisit 2015 ozone standards suggests a couple of points as the agency looks ahead to its scheduled 2020 review of the ozone air quality standards.
First, it’s imperative that EPA build its 2020 review around quality science – for one, to properly consider background levels of ozone and how they affect where the federal government sets the standards. For some parts of the country the 2015 standards were near levels of background ozone – setting up compliance problems for places such as Yellowstone National Park.
Second, on the road to the 2020 review, there should be discussion of implementation relief – from EPA or directly by Congress legislatively.
Posted May 12, 2016
We’ll say it again: Methane emissions are falling. And they’ll continue doing so because industry wants to capture as much of the primary component of natural gas as possible, for delivery to consumers.
So that’s the context for EPA’s regulatory initiative. Basically, the agency looked at the energy landscape – one of surging production but also declining emissions – and determined the next step should be more regulation. The resulting new rules could hinder America’s shale energy revolution, one that has helped lower U.S. energy-related carbon emissions 12 percent below 2005 levels, allowing the United States to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions.
Posted January 29, 2015
With EPA opening public hearings (subscription required) on its proposed new ground-level ozone standards, it’s important that we not let some key facts get lost in the wave of comments and anecdotes that results when there’s an open microphone available.
At issue is EPA’s plan to make more restrictive the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone, from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 and 70 ppb. The agency is collecting input until mid-March before finalizing the rule this fall.
We’ve made the case before that the existing standards are working, that our air is getting cleaner and will continue to do so with the current rule. In short, there’s no good reason to make the standards more stringent. That’s what the science shows, as experts detailed at EPA’s hearing in Washington, D.C. (here and here). Indeed, EPA’s own data shows that ozone levels have fallen 33 percent since 1980, including 18 percent since 2000.
Posted January 15, 2015
As we look at the Obama administration’s plan to impose new regulations on methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations, some important points.
First, when it comes to methane emissions, the White House is focusing on a relatively small piece of the big picture. Data from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program shows that methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems (161.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) represent just 28.5 percent of total methane emissions (567.3 million metric tons CO2 equivalent). That’s a fairly small wedge in the overall pie.
Posted December 9, 2014
New research by the University of Texas shows what other studies have shown: methane emissions from natural gas production are lower than previously estimated. The UT study found that emissions represent just 0.38 percent of production – about 10 percent lower than a 2013 study by the same research team.
The UT study checked two sources of methane emissions in natural gas production: processes to clear wells of accumulated liquids to increase production, called liquid unloadings; and pneumatic controller devices that open and close valves.
The study found that just 19 percent of pneumatic devices accounted for 95 percent of emissions from that equipment, and that just 20 percent of wells with unloading emissions that vent to the atmosphere accounted for 65 percent to 85 percent of those emissions. David Allen, the study’s principal investigator:
“To put this in perspective, over the past several decades, 10 percent of the cars on the road have been responsible for the majority of automotive exhaust pollution. Similarly, a small group of sources within these two categories are responsible for the vast majority of pneumatic and unloading emissions at natural gas production sites.”
The results suggest that technologies and practices already in use by industry – voluntary efforts and those to comply with federal green completions rules that become standard in January – are working to reduce methane leaks.
Posted December 4, 2014
National Journal: World oil producers have put oil prices into a free fall, refusing to pare back global supplies in the hopes that low prices will derail the fracking-backed production boom in the U.S. and preserve OPEC's power over world energy markets.
But global analysts are skeptical that the move will work.
The basic reason: Prices remain high enough to keep pumping. "Looking out there, it seems like there's a huge amount of oil that can be produced at $60, $70 per barrel," said Michael Lynch, president of consulting firm Strategic Energy and Economic Research, referring to the prices for Brent crude oil, a global reference point.
Posted November 26, 2014
The New York Times has an editorial urging Washington to regulate emissions of methane – no surprise as “The Gray Lady” has to uphold her “green” bonafides. But methane as an “overlooked” greenhouse gas, as the editorial’s headline states? Hardly.
While the Times may have just discovered methane, industry has been working to reduce emissions – and is succeeding, at a rate that casts doubt on the need for a new federal regulatory layer.
Posted November 25, 2014
Experts believe EPA soon will issue its proposal for the five-year review of Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, perhaps as early as this week. Some important points to consider as the agency prepares what could be the costliest regulation ever imposed on Americans:
First, our air is getting cleaner under the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) standards set in 2008. EPA reports that national average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent since 1980 – including 18 percent since 2000.
Posted November 24, 2014
For months we’ve been pointing out the brokenness of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal law requiring ever-increasing use of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.
We’ve written about the impending “blend wall,” the point where the RFS would require blending more ethanol into gasoline than could be safely used as E10, potentially putting motorists at risk for damage to vehicles while also potentially risking small-engine equipment and marine engines. We’ve written about RFS-mandated use of “phantom” liquid cellulosic biofuels – a fuel that hasn’t been commercially available despite the recent inclusion by EPA of landfill bio gas in that category (more about that in a future post). And we’ve written about how the 2014 requirements for ethanol use were months and months late from EPA, caught up in election-year politics.
The RFS is indeed broken. Late last week EPA basically agreed, announcing it’s waving the white flag on trying to issue ethanol-use requirements for 2014, which has just a little over one month to go. Instead, the agency said it will complete the 2014 targets in 2015 “prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.”