Confusing Steam For Methane, and Other Things to Know About the New York Times’ Latest Emissions Story

The New York Times claims in its latest article on methane emissions in the Permian Basin to have found a smoking gun on leaks from oil and natural gas facilities.

In reality, it’s just a steaming exhaust vent.

Times reporters spent a few hours doing flyovers of oil and natural gas facilities in two counties in West Texas, and then followed up the flight by visiting locations they claimed to have shown methane spikes to film with FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) cameras. Based on these findings, the reporters made the jump that, “Vast amounts of methane are escaping from oil and gas sites nationwide, worsening global warming.”

But there are a few issues with this assumption, starting with the heat signature recorded from the roof of a building. It doesn’t appear to be methane, which calls into question every other stated “fact” in the story.

Given such a lapse in fact-checking by the Times, check out the full post on for a few things to keep in mind when reading the article.

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