Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trump's EPA Wants To Repeal Methane Release Rules To Allow More: Look For Cat 6 Hurricanes, Searing Heat And Choking Air Pollution

Arctic Permafrost melting in Liverpool Bay in Canada’s Northwest Territories
Two sides of the methane release problem: Left - Methane gas flaring from a pit in Bakken oil field. Right: Satellite image of melting permafrost near  Liverpool Bay, Canada.

Even as monster Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolina coast and has millions fleeing inland, decisions by the Trumpie EPA could see even larger 'canes spawned by the end of the century. Are we talking category 5? Hell no! We are talking category 6.  Though there's still some debate on where the wind speed limit of hurricanes generated by warmer ocean waters lies, one specialist based at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space studies clearly leaves the door open for a higher category.

Timothy Hall, senior scientist at Goddard, quoted in a news release from July, said that top wind speeds of up to 230 miles per hour could well occur by the end of the century, if current global warming trends continue.  (For perspective, that would be equivalent to the strength of an F4 tornado but now spread across hundreds of square miles).

Let us put it this way: IF natural and human -spawned release of methane gas is in the offing, that calamitous trend to the Cat 6  'cane - not to mention the runaway greenhouse - will certainly continue.

Now, down to cases!

Recall in a  May 9, 2017 post I cited the Nov. 26, 2013  issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, in which the authors warned of the Arctic Ocean's release of  methane at a rate more than twice what existing scientific models predicted.  Natalie Shakhova and Igor Semiletov at the University of Alaska- Fairbanks' International Arctic Research Center (IARC)  - after a decade spent researching the Arctic's greenhouse gas emissions- found this unexpected result.

Shakhova, the lead author of the report, in an interview post-publication with The Fairbanks News Miner, warned the methane release rate was likely even greater than their paper described.  She said:

" We decided to be as conservative as possible. We’re actually talking the top of the iceberg.” 

The two UAF researchers focused on the continental shelf off the northern coast of eastern Russia - the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Underlying this region is sub -sea permafrost. When the permafrost melts, the methane is  released. For example, the submerged East Siberian Arctic Shelf contains much of the same stored carbon as the dry tundra to the south but also at least 17 teragrams of methane. (One teragram is equal to one million tons). 

As if the teragrams  of CH4 released from the melting permafrost aren't enough we're now faced with even higher release thanks to a process of deliberate methane burn off.    This is a result of the decision by the Trump cabal to allow flaring of methane associated with fossil fuel excavation.  (Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome.)

The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken yet another an Obama-era requirement: one that mandates that companies monitor and repair methane leaks.. This was according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring,” or burning, of methane from drilling operations.

The new rules follow two regulatory rollbacks this year that, taken together, represent the foundation of the United States’ effort to rein in global warming. In July, the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.

In the words of Janet McCabe, the E.P.A.’s top climate and clean-air regulator in the Obama administration.:

"They’re taking them down, one by one,” 

For the fossil fuelers, of course, jubilation reigns or something close to it. Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies based in Denver, spun it thusly:  "The Obama-era E.P.A. methane rule was the definition of red tape. It was a record-keeping nightmare that was technically impossible to execute in the field.”

In actual fact, this is a disgusting dodge and also an admission of colossal inefficiency given the fossil fuel energy sector appears more open to wasting product than harnessing it.   As noted in a  recently published paper in the journal Science, methane emissions from domestic oil and gas operations reached 2.3 percent of total production last year. Not much you say?   Well, it's 60 percent higher than current estimates from the EPA and it translates into an estimated 13 million tons of natural gas lost - or enough to fuel 10 million homes.

Try to process that. And while you're at it, that all this lost methane instead went directly into the atmosphere to add to the already powerful CO2 driven greenhouse effect.  Let's quantify that for you: The EPA conceded with its proposal Tuesday that easing the rule for methane leaks would put as ,much as 380,000 additional tons of methane into the atmosphere from 2019 to 2025. This added amount would be equivalent to 30 million tons of  CO2 - given methane's much higher forcing factor.

The new Science study is based is the culmination of five years of research to determine the effects of methane leakage and its effect on climate. Leaks themselves can occur at many places along the natural gas supply chain, including poorly maintained pipes, seals and storage tanks - and even certain equipment that emits gas by design- including outmoded pneumatic devices.

To read more about the paper's findings go to:

Oil and Gas Facilities Leak More Methane Than ... - Scientific American

Does  Ms. Sgamma given a damn about such criminal waste? No. Instead she praised the Trump administration for turning the oil companies’ requests into policy, i.e. formalizing the gross inefficiency, while  noting that the Obama administration frequently turned proposals from environmental groups into policy.   She had the audacity to blab:

It all depends on who you trust.  That administration trusted environmentalists. This one trusts industry.”

Yeppers. Trust industry to continue wasting 13 million tons of methane ($2 b worth)  each year, enough to heat 10 million homes. Instead, shooting it into the atmosphere to hasten our global warming demise. Brilliant! But what would one expect from the Trumpite degenerates, who don't give two craps if your grandkids thirty years from now are choking on the polluted air - as they roast from the heat.(The paper's findings also showed air quality will plummet).

 The regulation of methane, while not as widely discussed as emissions from cars and coal plants, was nonetheless a major component of Mr. Obama’s efforts to combat climate change. Methane makes up only about nine percent of greenhouse gases, but it is around 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. About one-third of methane pollution is estimated to come from oil and gas operations.

The forthcoming proposals from the E.P.A. and Interior Department would allow far more methane to leak from oil and gas drilling operations, environmentalists say.   In the words of Matt Watson, a specialist in methane pollution:  “These leaks can pop up any time, anywhere, up and down the oil and gas supply chain,The longer you go in between inspections, the longer leaks will go undetected and unrepaired.”

The planned EPA regression on methane exemplifies Trump’s policy quest to roll back regulations on businesses, particularly oil, gas and coal companies. Translated that means rolling back protections for we the people regulations ARE protections. While some might cheer the sound of the word "deregulation" or mentally conjure up images of freedom and personal liberty, they are more brainwashed than accurate. As economist George Lakoff has pointed out, e.g.

Deregulation then, means the abolition or elimination of  citizen health protections to make way for higher corporate profits. In other words, embracing proposals and policies that enable tapeworm larvae to proliferate in our pork chops, salmonella and rat feces to contaminate  eggs, and allow bits of cockroach antennae and leg bristles to get into your milk - oh, while  your water is allowed to contain carcinogenic chemicals like atrazine and perchlorates.

Even more reasons we need to surgically remove the pestilence known as Trump from the nation's body and body politic!  In the meantime, recapturing House and Senate to prevent any further enabling of his planetary destruction agenda!

See also:

Trump Lights the Fuse on a Deadly Methane Bomb

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