Nat Gas Can’t Be a Climate “Bridge Fuel” If We Don’t Control Methane

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At this point most of the boxes on my policy wishlist for the Tom Wolf administration have been checked off, which is why I’m mainly using the campaign endgame to talk about an issue where I’m still not a happy camper – fracking.

All the attention is on the severance tax, but the most important thing we have to get right about this – and where we need to hear some stronger language from Wolf – is on methane leakage.

Center-left environmentalist opinion in this state has generally taken the view that growing natural gas market share can be a force for good, because the big short term impact has been to greatly accelerate doom for the coal industry, which heretofore has been thought to be the biggest greenhouse gas villain.

But a bunch of recent research on this has changed that calculus. It turns out that if we don’t control methane leakage, natural gas extraction is actually worse for the climate than coal. A lot of Democratic politicians are invested in the idea of gas as a “bridge fuel,” and it still can be, but not if we don’t require companies to capture all the methane.

The technology to capture it exists, and it is affordable. The main missing piece is policy – we have to make all the drillers use it, like Colorado did. But so far Wolf has been giving decidedly weak answers about how we need new to explore new technology development, and is generally punting on the issue.

Luckily this is starting to bubble up to the point where editorial boards and opinion makers, both locally and nationally, are weighing in, and Wolf’s answers are getting a little meatier.

In the final debate Wolf responded to a question about methane from the League of Women Voters, acknowledging the need for new regulations “not just for methane” but also water disposal and other externalities of the drilling process.

That’s great, but what are those? Does he think that Colorado’s law is a good model? If not, how would his administration’s preferred policy differ from that?

If I were Wolf I would probably want to run out the clock and avoid pissing off anybody new before walking away with this election, but the calculus is different for voters and activists, so hopefully we’ll see the chorus of people badgering Wolf about this keep growing louder until we finally get some satisfactory answers.

This entry was posted in Elections, Energy, Environment, Governor, Issues.

4 Responses to Nat Gas Can’t Be a Climate “Bridge Fuel” If We Don’t Control Methane

  1. Pingback: 10/10 Morning Buzz | PoliticsPA

  2. Paul Roden says:

    Natural gas from fracking is too dangerous, too expensive and totally unnecessary for our energy needs in PA or anywhere else on the planet. Global warming and climate change will be exacerbated by the increase use of methane from fracking because methane will leak at the well pad site, from the pipeline and compressor pumping stations along the new pipeline routes. Radon is coming up with all this new gas at higher concentrations than regular natural gas. No one is measuring or monitoring this radon. You can’t sell or buy a house in the Northeast without testing and mitigating for radon. We know that radon causes cancer. We have no adequate place to store the drill cuttings which are radioactive and the billions of gallons of liquid fracking waste which can’t be recycled or cleaned up. They are just like nuclear waste, dangerous and have to be stored forever out of the biosphere. We have tried injecting it into abandoned gas and oil wells as well as new wells. This has caused earthquakes. Drillers have spilled deadly fracking wastes on the land and into streams, sewers and roadways, intentionally or accidently. The PA DEP can just sign a form and have the “well brine” declared as having “beneficial use,” and have it used for roadway deicing or “wintry mix road prep.” The gas industry now wants to export this gas that we were told was for our “energy independence” and as a “transition fuel” until renewable energy is ready. Instead we should be investing in and building renewable energy for which we have the resources and technology to do but not the political will because the dirty energy industry has bought off the state and Federal politicians in both political parties to do their bidding. Go to We can live without both fracking and nuclear power. Contrary to the propaganda of the dirty energy industry, we will not “starve and freeze in the dark” nor “wreck our economy”. The only people who will suffer will be the stockholders and owners of the centralized electric power and dirty energy companies, whose profits and power will be reduced. That is why they oppose renewable energy even though it is better for consumers, the economy, our national security and the environmental sustainability of the planet. They only care about profits and their quarterly bonuses and stock options.

  3. phillydem says:

    Not trying to be a wisecracker and I agree with your premise, but hasn’t it been shown that one of, if not the biggest, source of methane gas is cattle/cows?