The Inflation Reduction Act is the U.S. government’s most significant investment in combating climate change, spending more than $369 billion on programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Although much of the bill recently signed by President Joe Biden deals with tax incentives for renewable energy installations and financial incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, it is the first time that greenhouse gas penalties have been imposed without much publicity. Country. Methane emissions, which have a much shorter-term warming effect than CO2, will be subject to a surcharge from 2024.
A step The UN released last year Controlling the amount of methane released into the atmosphere is one of the simplest and most effective ways to combat climate change.
According to environmental groups, the surcharge is a step in the right direction, but the fight against gas emissions has only just begun. Importantly, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will introduce new regulations early next year that will determine when an oil or gas installation must pay a methane emissions surcharge.
“I see this as a significant, big step in the right direction,” says Don Grossman, a methane expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. “But we can always do more. This is a very serious problem.’
Reducing methane is beneficial for the climate
In the United States, CO2 accounts for 79 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and methane only 11 percent. But when you look at a twenty-year period, methane is eighty times more potent at global warming than CO2 because its chemical composition means it holds more heat. Methane in the atmosphere has some natural origins: it rises from swamps and volcanoes. But according to EPA At least 65 percent of that comes from human activities.
In the last two years KNMI’s US counterpart, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), has measured record levels of methane emissions into the atmosphere. As of 2021, the amount of gas in the atmosphere is 150 percent higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution.
In the United States, there are many industries that produce methane, but the largest polluters are the oil and gas industry, agriculture (especially cattle), and landfills, which emit 32%, 27%, and 17%, respectively. But pinpointing exactly how much gas is coming from which source is always difficult. Current EPA regulations require oil and gas companies to provide the numbers.
“Until now, we used estimates based on technical specifications and production rather than direct measurement results,” Grossman says.
from a Research published in 2020 It found that the amount of methane released by burning fossil fuels in the United States is underestimated by 40 percent.
But improvements in detection methods through field monitoring, aerial tests and satellite observations have made it easier to tackle methane emissions, and Grossman and others believe the new federal regulations will provide a new method of calculation.
‘Over the past year and a half, interest in methane has increased dramatically without anyone noticing. It was never paid attention to and now it is subject to additional charges. I am amazed by that,’ says the climate scientist Drew Schindel From Duke University, he led the United Nations Global Methane Research Program last year.
CO2 stays in between Three hundred and a thousand years In the atmosphere, but methane has already disappeared after ten years. So reducing CO2 emissions is good in the long run, but controlling methane is a quick fix.
Once upon a time World Climate Conference last November 100 countries, including the United States, have agreed to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 in an effort to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If the world could simultaneously cut emissions by 45 percent, it would save 0.3 degrees of warming. Since the Earth has already warmed 1.2 degrees, even a fraction of a degree makes a difference.
‘If we tackle methane,’ says climate expert Robert Kleinberg From Columbia University, “Temperatures are increasing more slowly than others.”
What the new law means
Environmental organizations have long pushed for a tax on greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, Schindel said, tackling methane oil and gas companies could also bring in money. When fossil fuels are burned CO2 is released as a byproduct and has no value to companies. But methane is still useful when leaking from oil and gas installations. If it can be taken care of, it can be Used for energy production. That means companies can save money by preventing leaks.
To combat methane emissions in the US, US tax authorities will impose a $900 penalty per thousand kilos of methane from 2024. That surcharge will increase to $1,500 per thousand kilos in 2026. However, it is important that only large oil and gas companies pay the surcharge. As a result, Kleinberg estimates that about sixty percent of companies responsible for methane emissions are not affected.
The methane penalty is one of the few punitive measures in a law that essentially rewards good behavior. But there are all kinds of measures that promote gas prevention. According to Kleinberg, these produce more results. For example, the law provides $1.5 billion in grants to help fined companies come up with technological solutions to reduce emissions.
What else to do?
A Report The Methane Actions of the Congressional Research Service (which conducts research on behalf of the US Congress) noted that the impact of methane fines on emissions levels depends on several factors. For example, the EPA’s final rules and natural gas prices play a role.
The EPA will announce new regulations on methane early next year. It sets the level of methane emissions for which a particular location must pay a fine.
“All of these terms need to be resolved,” Grossman said. ‘A major effort should be made to actively detect and repair leaks. Additionally, the rules should also avoid wasteful and polluting practices exploded Coping with gas.’
While it’s good to start with fossil fuel producers, the new law’s provisions don’t address what experts say is the “cow in the room.”
‘Oil and gas companies have enough money and technical expertise to reduce their methane emissions. It’s logical for them to take on a pioneering role,’ says Kleinberg. But, he adds, ‘livestock and waste processing industries are also important’.
The low-hanging fruit, says Kleinberg, is the methane-generating piles that break down food waste: Many technological solutions already exist and can be adapted. Gas from waste mountains It can then be used as fuel.
But in America it provides Animal husbandry Methane emissions are as large as the oil and gas industry. A cow’s digestion takes place through so-called enteric fermentation, which leads to methane absorption. Almost from America 40 million cows Stored for meat and dairy products, this belch accounts for nearly a third of the country’s annual methane emissions.According to the EPA.
Research is now underway to see if adding seaweed to cattle feed can reduce methane emissions for cattle farmers. But the changes that the agriculture sector needs are likely not coming through a divided U.S. Congress. Politically, there are few options for reducing emissions.
“I think farming is going to be very difficult,” Schindel said. ‘Legislation in the agricultural sector will be a huge task.’
For now, the focus is on the methane surcharge oil and gas producers must pay and the subsidies they receive for further emissions reductions. That’s a big step in the right direction, and a sign that the U.S. is ready to set an example for other methane-producing nations.
“Overall, it’s a huge improvement,” Grossman said.
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