After years of full-throated support for the country's natural-gas boom, President Obama's climate plan is starting to take precedence.
The White House on Tuesday proposed new rules limiting emissions of methane and other pollutants from the oil and natural-gas industry, part of a strategy to cut methane emissions by up to 45 percent of 2012 levels by 2025. The rules — which will apply only to new and modified gas wells — are meant to address a harmful byproduct of the natural-gas boom.
Methane accounts for roughly 9 percent of total U.S. greenhouse-gas pollution, according to 2012 statistics, with nearly a third from the extraction and transport of oil and natural gas. But even in small amounts, it's still a potent polluter; pound for pound, methane traps 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide.
The boom in natural gas has divided environmentalists. As a power source, it burns more cleanly than coal and has contributed to a downturn in domestic emissions. But it carries with it concerns about water and air pollution from development and fracking, and many no longer see it as a viable bridge fuel between coal and renewables, despite its availability and low cost.
"We're encouraged that the Obama administration is beginning to ask the oil and gas industry to bear the burden of its pollution," said Sierra Club President Michael Brune, who has opposed natural-gas development. "Controlling methane, however, is not an end in itself, and it will not make fracked oil and gas safe."