Biden wants to end routine natural gas flaring by 2030

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Biden wants to end routine natural gas flaring by 2030
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President Biden, along with the European Union, announced a goal of eliminating routine natural gas flaring from oil and gas production by 2030. The group has encouraged countries to capture flared and leaked gas to boost supplies.

Flaring is the process of burning off some of the natural gas created during the drilling process, as opposed to capturing it or venting it directly into the atmosphere. This initiative comes as Russian natural gas supplies to Europe are in question amid tensions surrounding the war in Ukraine.

The proposal was announced at Friday’s meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF). The US president also used the meeting to announce other climate-related goals on fertiliser, shipping and electric vehicles.

Burning off excess gas produced from drilling is actually better for the climate crisis than just letting it enter the atmosphere directly, the US Department of Energy (DOE) says.

That’s because natural gas is mostly made of methane, which has around 25 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the course of 100 years — but burning it turns most of the methane into CO2.

But natural gas is also used for electricity, heating and cooking, among other things, and flaring burns that gas instead of capturing it and sending to consumers.

“Routine” flaring refers to when gas is more regularly flared, as opposed to emergency flaring to relieve pressure build-up.

A recent report from the International Energy Agency found that 140 billion cubic metres of natural gas was flared around the world in 2021. Another 125 billion cubic metres was lost to venting — directly sending methane into the atmosphere — or leaks, they found.

If efforts were made to capture the gas lost to leaks, venting and flaring, the report adds, countries that currently export gas to the European Union could add an additional 45 billion cubic metres of output — almost one-third the amount of gas Russia exported to the EU last year.

“By stopping the leaking and flaring of this super-potent greenhouse gas and capturing this resource for countries that need it, we’re addressing two problems at once,” President Biden told other world leaders at the MEF meeting on Friday.

This goal is an extension of the US and EU’s Global Methane Pledge launched at last year’s UN climate change summit Cop26, which aimed to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent of 2020 levels by 2030 in signatory countries. 120 countries have now signed the pledge.

The new goal will “encourage all nations to capture the maximum potential of cost-effective methane mitigation in the oil and gas sector, and to eliminate routine flaring as soon as possible, and no later than 2030,” according to a White House statement.

“A ban on flaring methane gas would cut dangerous climate pollution and stop tremendous energy waste, and it does not require committing to expanding and locking in new gas infrastructure,” David Doniger from the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Climate & Clean Energy program said in a statement emailed toThe Independent.

Capturing leaked and flared gas can reduce some methane and CO2 emissions by eliminating excess use but does still result in some greenhouse gasses when the captured product is used by consumers or power plants, for example.

“Ending methane flaring is an absolute must, but it has to be done in conjunction with a rapid phaseout of all fossil fuel production and use,” Maggie Coulter, an attorney at the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity‘s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement emailed to The Independent.

“Biden can’t protect our climate by just cutting off the methane blowtorch. He’s got to address all the fossil fuels broiling our climate.”

In addition to the methane and flaring goals, Mr Biden asked other countries to join his goal of making 50 per cent of light-duty vehicle sales electric by 2030, as well as announcing new challenges on shipping emissions and fertilizer.

The meeting was attended by world leaders such Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, UN Secretary General António Guterres and Egyptian President Abdeh Fattah el-Sisi, whose country will host this year’s Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

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