Revision of the earlier set targets and ambitions in the 1990’s for reducing methane emissions in the United States, is demanded. Although the US methane emissions have decreased by 11 percent since 1990, the forecasts predict that they will increase through 2030 if additional action is not taken. “Fight climate change”, so says President Obama in his Climate Action Plan, which is directed to the Administration. Their goal is to develop a comprehensive, overarching strategy to cut methane emissions in the future. In addition the Administration also explores opportunities to put methane into use, because it can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, encourages investment, improves safety and leads to cleaner air.
Which key industries are addressed?
Determining the future for methane requires a solid and targeted strategy that builds on progress. The Administration identified several key sources, which are responsible for the largest methane emissions in the U.S. To further cut emissions from methane in these industries, several authorities and initiatives joined forces to set up agreements:
- Agriculture: The ‘Biogas Roadmap’ is a partnership from the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy with the dairy industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Its main focus is to outline voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies.
- Landfills: The dumping-grounds are responsible for 18% of the total methane emissions in the US, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Therefore they will propose updated standards and take public comment on whether to update the standards for the existing landfills in the summer of 2014. Through special voluntary programs, in partnership with the industry and local leaders, EPA wants to use the methane waste for powering communities.
- Coal mines: Public input has been gained by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management for developing a program to the capture and sale, or disposal, of waste mine methane on lands leased by the Federal Government. In addition, EPA will continue with supporting beneficial methane recovery and use at coal mines through partnering with the industry and its voluntary program.
- Oil & Gas: From the successful experiences in the oil and gas industry, new actions will be taken to encourage eco-efficiency and additional cost-effective reductions. By updating the standards for reducing venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands, the targeted regulations will be more tightened up, later this year.
Improving methane measurements is necessary
Measuring methane emissions is a complex and uncertain process, because of the unevenly dispersion across the entire landscape and the diversity of sources and industries that are responsible for the output. Better data collection and measurement will enable more effective management of opportunities to reduce methane emissions and lead to a better understanding of methane trends and sources. The U.S. strategy prescribes several important steps for improving data quality:
- The development of new measurement technologies, including lower-cost emissions sensing equipment.
- To identify and address areas of higher uncertainty through additional data collection, direct emission measurements, and further research.
- Direct measurement of atmospheric concentrations by enhancing top-down modeling and monitoring.
The United States will keep continuing with elaborating the strategy and its associated elements for reducing domestic methane emissions. Furthermore, the U.S. is also involved with partners around the globe for reducing methane emissions, for instance through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Global Methane Initiative.
Source: The White House Blog - A Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions