Posted May 12, 2016
We’ll say it again: Methane emissions are falling. And they’ll continue doing so because industry wants to capture as much of the primary component of natural gas as possible, for delivery to consumers.
So that’s the context for EPA’s regulatory initiative. Basically, the agency looked at the energy landscape – one of surging production but also declining emissions – and determined the next step should be more regulation. The resulting new rules could hinder America’s shale energy revolution, one that has helped lower U.S. energy-related carbon emissions 12 percent below 2005 levels, allowing the United States to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions.
Posted January 29, 2015
With EPA opening public hearings (subscription required) on its proposed new ground-level ozone standards, it’s important that we not let some key facts get lost in the wave of comments and anecdotes that results when there’s an open microphone available.
At issue is EPA’s plan to make more restrictive the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone, from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 and 70 ppb. The agency is collecting input until mid-March before finalizing the rule this fall.
We’ve made the case before that the existing standards are working, that our air is getting cleaner and will continue to do so with the current rule. In short, there’s no good reason to make the standards more stringent. That’s what the science shows, as experts detailed at EPA’s hearing in Washington, D.C. (here and here). Indeed, EPA’s own data shows that ozone levels have fallen 33 percent since 1980, including 18 percent since 2000.
Posted December 9, 2014
New research by the University of Texas shows what other studies have shown: methane emissions from natural gas production are lower than previously estimated. The UT study found that emissions represent just 0.38 percent of production – about 10 percent lower than a 2013 study by the same research team.
The UT study checked two sources of methane emissions in natural gas production: processes to clear wells of accumulated liquids to increase production, called liquid unloadings; and pneumatic controller devices that open and close valves.
The study found that just 19 percent of pneumatic devices accounted for 95 percent of emissions from that equipment, and that just 20 percent of wells with unloading emissions that vent to the atmosphere accounted for 65 percent to 85 percent of those emissions. David Allen, the study’s principal investigator:
“To put this in perspective, over the past several decades, 10 percent of the cars on the road have been responsible for the majority of automotive exhaust pollution. Similarly, a small group of sources within these two categories are responsible for the vast majority of pneumatic and unloading emissions at natural gas production sites.”
The results suggest that technologies and practices already in use by industry – voluntary efforts and those to comply with federal green completions rules that become standard in January – are working to reduce methane leaks.
Posted December 4, 2014
National Journal: World oil producers have put oil prices into a free fall, refusing to pare back global supplies in the hopes that low prices will derail the fracking-backed production boom in the U.S. and preserve OPEC's power over world energy markets.
But global analysts are skeptical that the move will work.
The basic reason: Prices remain high enough to keep pumping. "Looking out there, it seems like there's a huge amount of oil that can be produced at $60, $70 per barrel," said Michael Lynch, president of consulting firm Strategic Energy and Economic Research, referring to the prices for Brent crude oil, a global reference point.
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.
Posted November 25, 2014
Experts believe EPA soon will issue its proposal for the five-year review of Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, perhaps as early as this week. Some important points to consider as the agency prepares what could be the costliest regulation ever imposed on Americans:
First, our air is getting cleaner under the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) standards set in 2008. EPA reports that national average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent since 1980 – including 18 percent since 2000.
Posted November 24, 2014
For months we’ve been pointing out the brokenness of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal law requiring ever-increasing use of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.
We’ve written about the impending “blend wall,” the point where the RFS would require blending more ethanol into gasoline than could be safely used as E10, potentially putting motorists at risk for damage to vehicles while also potentially risking small-engine equipment and marine engines. We’ve written about RFS-mandated use of “phantom” liquid cellulosic biofuels – a fuel that hasn’t been commercially available despite the recent inclusion by EPA of landfill bio gas in that category (more about that in a future post). And we’ve written about how the 2014 requirements for ethanol use were months and months late from EPA, caught up in election-year politics.
The RFS is indeed broken. Late last week EPA basically agreed, announcing it’s waving the white flag on trying to issue ethanol-use requirements for 2014, which has just a little over one month to go. Instead, the agency said it will complete the 2014 targets in 2015 “prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.”
Posted October 27, 2014
Ever heard of the broken window fallacy? In economic circles, it’s a common parable used to dismiss arguments that damage – like the breaking of a window – has a silver lining: spending to fix the window boosts the window repairman, which boosts the folks who make panes of glass and so forth.
Yet, that argument (and the one depicted in the broken window parable) misses a big unseen – there’s no free lunch in spending to repair or rebuild property. The money comes from somewhere. The person who must buy a new window spends money he or she might have invested or spent elsewhere in the economy, with greater economic impact. Likewise with government spending. Those dollars came from taxpayers who might have invested or spent elsewhere in the economy, with greater economic impact.
We say all of this because another common argument being heard is that tossing bricks of energy regulation will invigorate the energy sector.
Posted August 15, 2014
Every county in Ohio would be in nonattainment or non-compliance with an ozone standard of 60 parts per billion (ppb), which EPA is considering to replace the current 75 ppb standard. Counties in red are those with ozone monitors located in them; those in orange are unmonitored areas that could be expected to violate the 60 ppb standard, based on spatial interpolation.
The potential economic costs to Ohio would be significant. The state could see $204.3 billion in gross state product loss from 2017 to 2040 and 218,415 lost jobs or job equivalents per year. On a practical level, manufacturers wouldn’t be able to expand to counties in red or orange unless other businesses shut down, and federal highway funds could be frozen.
Posted May 15, 2014
Another benefit of America’s energy renaissance is seen in the competitive edge North American refiners are gaining because of lower feedstock costs, resulting from surging domestic crude oil and natural gas production.
The latest “This Week in Petroleum” report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that U.S. and Canadian refiners are in a stronger position relative to European counterparts because of lower costs for domestic crude oil and natural gas, from which they make a variety of value-added finished products.