Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted November 5, 2015
To a large degree, cleaner air in the United States results from innovations and improvements in transportation fuels over the past four decades. This is important, because the freedom to travel has been ingrained in the American psyche since the days when waves of westward migration began spanning the continent.
Today, Americans are used to free and independent movement, with the average person traveling more than 13,600 miles a year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, Americans’ modern lifestyles depend on freight haulers that deliver commercial goods to the places where they live. The 4 million miles of highways and roads that make up a large portion of the U.S. transportation network serve as the country’s arterial system – and energy makes it go. Refineries supply more than 130 billion gallons of gasoline and 60 billion gallons of diesel a year to power trucks, barges, ships and trains connecting consumers with consumable goods.
The oil and natural gas industry is meeting the challenge of fueling America’s transportation needs while advancing air quality goals that benefit all Americans – by investing in cleaner, safer fuels and next-generation technologies for the future.
Posted October 12, 2015
Methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems continue falling. EPA, in an update to its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, says that methane emissions decreased from 77 million metric tons CO2 equivalent 2013 to 73 million metric tons CO2e last year. This continues a significant downward trend over the past few years.
The significance is this: Further reductions in methane emissions argue strongly against EPA’s position that additional regulation is needed. And, indeed, the agency is working on new layers of methane regulation.
Let’s think this one through. Methane emissions are falling under current the current regulatory regime, yet EPA and its supporters say that further reductions won’t happen without more regulation. (If you feel like you’ve heard this argument before it’s because you have – see here and here on EPA’s ozone proposals.) But here’s what we know: Methane emissions associated with oil and natural gas systems are falling – at a time when natural gas production is dramatically increasing.
Posted October 2, 2015
A number of Americans may look at some of the mixed reaction to the Obama administration’s release of new, more restrictive ozone standards and conclude that if industry and business groups and environmental activists all are unhappy with the final standards, then the administration must be congratulated for splitting the difference.
As measured as that sounds, it’s simply the wrong approach for setting air quality policy – and lots of Americans are likely to be caught up in the impacts.
As noted in this post, changing national ozone standards from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb could impact job growth in nearly one-third of the country’s counties or county equivalents, according to an API analysis of EPA data. Instead of 217 counties out of compliance with ozone standards, 958 could be in violation and potentially subject to constraints that could affect business expansion, infrastructure development, transportation projects and other activities in those localities. Shorter: These impacts could be coming to a neighborhood near you – affecting economic growth and job creation.
Posted July 17, 2015
Earlier this week Climate Central posted a story on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants noting that 41 states experienced reductions from 2008 to 2013, according to a study by Ceres, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Bank of America and four large utilities.
Posted July 8, 2015
Before getting into the latest in a series of research studies on energy-related methane emissions, it’s important to stay focused on the big picture.
Data from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report published this spring shows that net methane emissions from natural gas production fell 38 percent from 2005 to 2013 – even as natural gas production rose dramatically. Also: Methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells declined 79 percent from 2005 to 2013, EPA found.
That’s the appropriate context for 11 new studies just published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, reporting research in the Barnett Shale play in North Texas. The studies follow others coordinated by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). One released in 2013 found that methane emissions from natural gas drilling were a fraction of previous estimates. Another released earlier this year found that that vast majority of natural gas facilities – from the production phase to distribution via inter- and intra-state pipeline networks – recorded methane loss rates of below 1 percent.
Posted May 28, 2015
If implemented, the stricter ozone standards could be the costliest regulation ever, potentially reducing U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040, according to a study by NERA Economic Consulting for the National Association of Manufacturers. The U.S. could see 2.9 million fewer jobs or job equivalents per year on average through 2040.
Yeah, that’s big.
Certainly, for those kinds of impacts Americans would expect them to be justified. But EPA’s proposal is starkly lacking in terms of the science and public health.
Posted May 27, 2015
With national ozone levels falling, some activists argue for stricter federal standards the best way they can – by pointing to the relatively few areas in the United States where ozone levels remain above the current standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb).
Yet, think about that. If an urban area like Los Angeles or Houston currently is out of attainment with the standard set at 75 ppb, how will lowering the national standard to 65 or 60 ppb – which EPA is considering – make a difference in those and other non-compliant areas? Good question.
The fact remains that the current standards are working. EPA data shows ozone levels declined 18 percent between 2008 and 2013.
Posted February 3, 2015
Politico reports (subscription required) that the White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday finished review of EPA’s final rule to set state implementation plan requirements for the agency’s 2008 ozone standards.
Here’s the significance of that piece of wonky news: Even before EPA has finished telling the states how to implement the 2008 ozone standards, the agency already is well into setting new, potentially stricter standards. Regulation for regulation sake? It would be hard to find a better illustration.
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 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.