The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Facts on Methane and Fracking

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 23, 2014

Environmental groups want more regulation targeting methane emissions from oil and natural gas production. While this is what environmental groups often do, the new methane alarm is especially curious given the fact situation, perhaps best illustrated in a single chart from the folks at Energy In Depth:


Shown here is the dramatic decline in emissions of methane (CH4) from 2006 to 2012, according to EPA’s Inventory of Greenhouse Gases  – 39.4 percent to be exact. This occurred while natural gas production was growing 37 percent during the same time period, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). EPA explains:

Reasons for the 2006-2012 trend include an increase in plunger lift use for liquids unloading, increased voluntary reductions over that time period (including those associated with pneumatic devices), and RECs use for well completions and workovers with hydraulic fracturing.

Meanwhile, the United States’ energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are near a 20-year low, according to EIA, largely because of increased natural gas use. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this year:

“Responsible development of natural gas is an important part of our work to curb climate change.”

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, talking about greenhouse gas reductions:

“About half of that progress we have made is from the natural-gas boom …”

The point here is that while there’s a lot of talk around the world about reducing emissions, America is achieving reductions – thanks in large part to increased use of natural gas, safely developed by the oil and natural gas industry from shale with advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

Industry also is doing its part, investing $81 billion in greenhouse gas-mitigating technologies between 2000 and 2012. That’s more than the federal government’s investment over the same period (nearly $80 billion) and almost as much as was invested by all other U.S. industries combined ($91 billion). Industry invested $11 billion to develop domestic wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other non-hydrocarbon resources between 2000 and 2012 – equal to one of every six dollars invested in those areas.

Our industry is comprised of energy companies, heavily invested in the next great breakthrough in energy technology – even as they develop the fuels we need to power the economy and individual lives every day.

All of the above certainly is lost on those who advocate unnecessary, often duplicative, regulation – measures that could have a chilling effect on the energy investment and enterprise that are driving America’s ongoing energy revolution.

Then there’s the disconnect that was apparent in last weekend’s climate change march in New York City, with many of the marchers carrying anti-fracking signs – opposing perhaps the single most important development in actually reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi:

“… I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d stumbled into an anti-fracking march that also happened to be about climate change.  And I couldn’t escape the conclusion that this focus could end up undermining the very climate change goals that the march was ostensibly about achieving.”

Cal-Berkeley Prof. Richard A. Muller:

“[B]oth global warming and air pollution can be mitigated by the development and utilisation of shale gas”— therefore, “Environmentalists who oppose the development of shale gas and fracking are making a tragic mistake.”


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.