Natural Gas Industry Blowing Smoke Up President Obama’s Nose


By Ken Silverstein

If natural gas is paving the way to the country’s energy future, the industry has just misstepped and undermined the very infrastructure it wants to build: Just after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its guidelines to control the most potent greenhouse gas emission of them all — methane — an oil and gas lobby started to tear it down.

By all accounts, much of the oil and gas industry has taken steps to be responsible, trying to control the levels of methane that escape from their wells and pipes. And to a large extent, the industry has been successful, although the Obama administration says that more can be done. That’s fair, given that a goodly part of the White House’s Clean Power Plan to reduce overall carbon emissions relies on utilities switching from coal-fired generation to natural gas-fueled power.

To be exact, EPA’s methane proposal released Wednesday would require oil and gas producers to cut such emissions from 2012 levels by as much as 45 percent by 2025. That is in their interest, given that developers can sell that “wet gas” to chemical and manufacturing facilities that use it as a feedstock for their processes.

“This administration’s first reaction is always to pile on more red tape,” says Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government relations for the Western Energy Alliance. She adds that industry has been voluntarily taking such steps and that its methane emissions have fallen by 40 percent, even though natural gas production has risen by 26 percent, all between 2006 to 2012.

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