The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The NY Times’ Hot Air on Methane

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 26, 2014

The New York Times has an editorial urging Washington to regulate emissions of methane – no surprise as “The Gray Lady” has to uphold her “green” bonafides. But methane as an “overlooked” greenhouse gas, as the editorial’s headline states? Hardly.

While the Times may have just discovered methane, industry has been working to reduce emissions – and is succeeding, at a rate that casts doubt on the need for a new federal regulatory layer. Let’s look at the facts:


The chart, put together by the folks at Energy In Depth, shows that the methane emissions reductions the Times wants have been occurring since 2008 – at the same time production of natural gas from shale has been soaring, thanks to safe hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. According to EPA data, industry efforts have reduced methane emissions from fracked wells 73 percent the past three years and nearly 40 percent from 2006 to 2012. EPA:

Reported methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems sector have decreased by 12 percent since 2011, with the largest reductions coming from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, which have decreased by 73 percent during that period. EPA expects to see further emission reductions as the agency’s 2012 standards for the oil and gas industry become fully implemented.   

EPA adds:

The decrease in CH4 (methane) emissions is largely due to the decrease in emissions from production and distribution. … Emissions from this source … declined by 39.4 percent from 2006 to 2012. Reasons for the 2006-2012 trend include ... increased voluntary reductions over that time period.

Both quotes refer to industry “green completions” rules that become standard in January but which industry already is complying with in many cases. Howard Feldman, API’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs:

“We’re proud to see our industry’s efforts demonstrated in EPA data that show emissions are far lower than EPA projected just a few years ago, even as U.S. production has surged. Creating good paying jobs and growing the economy go hand in hand with our efforts to reduce emissions both voluntarily and in compliance with EPA emissions standards that take effect in January. … Industry will continue to be a leader in environmental stewardship as it maintains our country’s leadership position as the top producer of natural gas.”

Some takeways for the Times and others pushing for a new layer of federal regulation: Industry certainly isn’t “overlooking” methane emissions. While others talk about reducing them, industry is doing it, significantly lowering emissions while it increases natural gas production.

Second, action for action’s sake isn’t a model for sound public policy. Policy should be based on facts and reality, not stale talking points or a political agenda that could hamper America’s energy revolution.


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.