Opinion: Texas Oil & Gas Can Lead in Methane Reduction

Oil pumpjack in Texas | Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Energy has been intertwined with my hometown of Houston’s infrastructure for decades. Providing jobs and immense economic growth throughout the city, the industry has allowed Houston to establish itself as an American energy powerhouse.

While it remains crucial to continue pushing for the energy industry to be the best it can be, companies must recognize the challenge and opportunity that methane reduction presents. In fact, Houston can be the leader of this charge.

Methane is a greenhouse gas approximately 80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period. The oil and gas industry in the U.S. accounts for an estimated 29% of total domestic methane emissions, the second largest sector after agriculture. Despite providing jobs and economic growth to the area, Houston’s energy industry is responsible for a significant chunk of these emissions.

In the short term, methane emissions are potentially more damaging than CO2, demonstrating an economic waste and a threat to domestic energy security. The inefficiencies within the oil and gas industry have resulted in a loss of $2 billion worth of natural gas through methane venting, flaring, and leaking annually – enough to heat 10 million American homes for a year.

In the natural gas industries of Texas, most methane leaks occur during the extraction and transportation phases of natural gas production. Fortunately, this is a very solvable issue. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 75% of methane emissions caused by the oil and gas sector can be avoided by updating equipment and implementing effective mitigation practices. Houston, for example, continues to set positive examples for the rest of the energy industry. Continuously, Houston-based companies prioritize climate resilience in their plan for adaptation and mitigation. If other cities, states, and countries follow suit, we can find the path toward the end of needless methane emissions.

Importantly, young Texans will be the future leaders of the oil and gas industry. These prospective CEOs, technicians, and analysts have continued to encourage the shift in focus toward prioritizing lower emissions and environmental sustainability. Movements like the Methane Matters campaign, with over 6000 signatures, are a perfect example of the next generation already working to move past methane emissions.

The current goals outlined in The U.S. Methane Reduction Plan anticipated outcomes such as the reduction of 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035. With the U.S. oil and gas industry being a top global producer of some of the world’s cleanest oil and gas products, continuing to mitigate wasteful methane emissions will allow the U.S. to stay competitive internationally and lower overall emissions.

Ultimately, utilizing the resources of energy powerhouses like Houston, we can set an example for the rest of the nation for where we can take the oil and gas industry. By reducing industry-associated methane emissions, Texas’s strong oil and gas industry could be at the forefront of cleaner energy and economic growth for future generations. And, when there is less methane in the atmosphere, it’s good for the planet and our pockets.

Andreas Cantu is a sophomore at Texas A&M University and a member of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) originally from Houston, Texas.

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