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What is "certified" gas?

The oil and gas industry is paying companies to monitor methane pollution from their well sites and “certify” that they are working to reduce the amount of methane they release into the atmosphere. To date, there is no set standard for what level of methane leak reduction qualifies gas as “certified” or “responsibly sourced."

Where is the methane leaking from? How much methane is released from the gas system?

Gas leaks at every step of the process. Drillers deliberately vent it into the air at fracking wells. It leaks from more than 3 million miles of aging pipelines that crisscross the country. And it leaks from furnaces and stoves in our homes and buildings, even when they’re turned off. When all these leaks are taken into account, the full climate impact of methane gas may be just as bad as coal. Researchers have found that if 3% of gas leaks before it reaches the end user, it would put the climate impacts of gas on par with coal. Multiple studies have documented leakage rates higher than 3% — as high as 9% in the Permian Basin.

If we take care of the methane problem, is gas environmentally friendly?

Gas is responsible for more than one-third of US climate pollution even under conservative estimates of methane leakage. According to climate and energy modeling experts like the International Energy Agency (IEA), averting catastrophic climate outcomes requires an urgent shift away from fossil fuels like methane gas — including no new oil and gas drilling and no new gas furnaces installed by 2025.

Who is in charge of monitoring methane pollution from the gas system?

The oil and gas industry mostly self-reports its methane pollution, and is actively fighting efforts to strengthen monitoring practices.

Can the oil and gas industry get its methane problem under control?

Methane pollution is an inevitable part of extracting, transporting and burning gas. As a byproduct of oil drilling, the fossil fuel industry routinely burns it or vents it directly into the air. Methane is also purposefully vented from pipelines during routine maintenance inspections or when excess pressure creates an explosion hazard. Even if the fossil fuel industry were able to plug every leak in the more than 3 million miles of pipelines across the country, the gas system would still emit large amounts of methane.

Isn’t it good for the oil and gas industry to reduce methane pollution? What are the risks of a federal standard for “certified” gas?

Absolutely! The oil and gas industry will soon be required to address its methane pollution problem thanks to new protections from the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Methane Emissions Reduction Program passed by Congress in the Inflation Reduction Act. But a government-sanctioned “certified” gas program threatens to give the fossil fuel industry credit for simply doing the bare minimum to meet their legal obligation to avoid methane pollution. And it gives the industry a free opportunity to misleadingly advertise their product to the public as “clean” or “sustainable.” Despite the scientific consensus about the need to move away from methane gas, the industry is rapidly expanding the gas system:

  • It plans to double or triple its export capacity on the Gulf Coast, polluting the air and water in communities of color.

  • It has applied for permits for hundreds of miles of new major gas pipelines.

  • It connects a new building to the gas system once a minute in the United States, ensuring that they will burn methane in furnaces, water heaters and stoves for decades to come. Despite the serious flaws inherent in the concept of “certified” gas, gas utilities are already paying a higher price for it and passing the extra costs on to the public.

Despite the serious flaws inherent in the concept of “certified” gas, gas utilities are already paying a higher price for it and passing the extra costs on to the public. The industry is also advertising its use of “certified” gas, leading the public to believe that continued expansion of the gas system is environmentally sustainable.

Is certified gas reducing the United States’ climate pollution?

IEA data reveals that U.S. oil and gas sector methane emissions are rising in lockstep with rising gas production, contradicting the industry’s own reports that methane intensity is decreasing, and revealing companies may under-report by as much as 95%. Oil and gas methane emissions grew 4% from 2022 levels, which is roughly aligned with production growth. Meanwhile, some lobbyists claim certifications by a handful of startup companies prove U.S. suppliers are reducing emissions. They are referring to “certified gas” schemes that now purportedly cover up to 30% of U.S. gas and which have come under scrutiny for their lofty claims and lack of accountability. But as emissions are still growing in line with production, gas certification is clearly failing and is fundamentally a marketing tool rather than an effective strategy for cleaning up oil and gas. Reducing fossil fuel consumption and phase-out is the only way to reduce climate pollution. Learn more and view citations here.

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