*UPDATE* White House Climate Plan Highlights Benefits of Natural Gas

UPDATE (2:20 PM ET, 6/28/2013):  We admit it: we don’t always agree, in every case, with what our friends over at the environmental think tank Resources for the Future (RFF) have to say about shale. But RFF’s write-up this week about “what the president’s climate plan means for natural gas” is certainly worth your time and attention. As we know, study after study continues to report that the emissions reduction benefits of natural gas are real — and that the methane leakage rates associated with shale development (oft-cited by activists as a reason to oppose it) are both minimal and overestimated – a reality the EPA itself has conceded. Here’s what RFF has to say on the matter:

“The problem for embracing natural gas as a bridge to a low carbon future has been uncertainty about the amount of methane emitted in gas production, processing and distribution. However, a host of studies are coming forward to reduce this uncertainty and the best information available shows that such emissions are well under the amount that would make lifecycle global warming potential of gas equal to that of coal. Further, the President’s plan rightly creates a federal task force to develop a strategy for dealing with methane emissions throughout the economy, including massive amounts from agriculture, putting the pressure on all such producers, not only the politically unpopular oil and gas industry.”

To recap: Even RFF says the “best information available” in the scientific community confirms that methane emissions from shale development are well under the amount that would curb the emission-reduction benefits of natural gas. RFF continues:

“For all the scaremongering of those opposed to any climate change plan, the shale gas revolution has made it far less costly than it would have otherwise been to reduce GHGs from the electricity sector.”

—Original post, June 25, 2013—

This week, President Obama presented his Climate Action Plan, a strategy for cutting America’s greenhouse gas emissions, which heavily emphasized natural gas as a critical part of our energy future.

The President highlighted how the United States is already reducing its greenhouse gas emissions while shoring up its national energy security via the increased use and development of our vast natural gas resources. As the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) found earlier this month, CO2 emissions from the United States dropped by 200 million tons, or 3.8 percent, in 2012. The decline, noted as “one of the bright spots in the global picture,” was due in large part to the increased availability of natural gas – which, of course, is increasing being developed from shale and other tight reservoirs across the country.

Here are two key excerpts from the President’s Climate Action Plan:

“In fact, last year, carbon emissions from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades. At the same time, while there is more work to do, we are more energy secure than at any time in recent history. In 2012, America’s net oil imports fell to the lowest level in 20 years and we have become the world’s leading producer of natural gas – the cleanest-burning fossil fuel.”

“Burning natural gas is about one-half as carbon-intensive as coal, which can make it a critical ‘bridge fuel’ for many countries as the world transitions to even cleaner sources of energy.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of the climate benefits of increased natural gas use, either. For example:

  • The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions released a report earlier this month that found “increased availability of natural gas can yield economic opportunities and lower greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • The IEA found in July 2012 that the United States has had “the largest reduction [of emissions] of all countries or regions” since 2006, cutting GHGs by a staggering 7.7 percent.
  • In August 2012, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) released a report that energy related U.S. CO2 emissions had fallen to near 1992 levels.
  • At the Rio + 20 climate conference in Brazil in 2012, leaders from across the globe expressed the importance of natural gas in improving the environment and reducing global GHG emissions, while simultaneously improving the lives of the world’s poor.

Overall, resounding support for increased natural gas use has been heard across the United States and abroad, both for its clear economic contribution and its enormous environmental and public health benefits.

Unfortunately, the President’s plan skips one beat and fails to recognize the importance of a supportive tax structure to maintain continued production of this clean burning resource. While promoting the many benefits of increased natural gas use, the President’s plan simultaneously proposes increasing taxes on the industry. This will ultimately strip capital from producers, hindering their ability to develop this clean-burning resource and ultimately stopping the POTUS’ plans to curb global climate change.

As Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) President Barry Russell states, “While American oil and natural gas production is on the rise, our emissions are on the decline.” And that’s good news for the environment, our economy, and our energy security alike. Continuing that trend requires increased and responsible development of oil and natural gas, especially from shale – something that a new punitive tax structure would unquestionably undermine.


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