The EPA is undercounting methane pollution by 77 percent

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 23 Feb 2022 18:35:00 GMT

The oft-repeated claim that the United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse pollution since 2005 by switching from coal to gas depends on the EPA’s official accounting that methane pollution has declined during the fracking boom, an implausible scenario.

Today, the International Energy Agency revealed in a major report that methane pollution from the fossil-fuel industry is 70 percent higher than official figures globally. Their Global Methane Tracker finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been seriously undercounting methane pollution. The IEA estimate of 2021 methane pollution is 77 percent higher than the EPA’s inventory:

United States methane pollution from energy sources in 2021. EPA estimate: 9,600 kT; IEA estimate: 17,000 kT

Not surprisingly, that cancels out all the purported climate benefits of switching electricity production from coal to natural gas.

Furthermore, the U.S. EPA calculates the effect of methane on global warming by using its impact over 100 years, which is about 30 times that of CO2, instead of more scientifically defensible dynamic measures that take into account methane’s 20-year impact, which is 86 times that of CO2.

3/7/20 Update: Russia invaded Ukraine the day after the IEA report dropped, so that may help explain why this report didn’t get too much attention. However, the oil and gas industry are claiming the invasion means we have to drill everywhere, and the Senate Energy Committee found time to attack FERC for regulating methane pollution. So I think there’s capacity to discuss this report and its shattering implications, which include the need for the United States to shut down the fracking boom as fast as humanly possible.