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The Other Greenhouse Gas

How Methane Emissions Harm the Environment and the Economy

Steam and other emissions are seen coming from funnels at an oil refinery in Melbourne, July 2009.  Mick Tsikas / Courtesy Reuters

In April 2015, the Rhodium Group, a New York-based advisory firm, published a report on the importance of reducing global methane emissions. According to the report, some 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—primarly composed of methane—escaped into the atmosphere in 2012 from oil and gas operations. Methane leakage is bad for the economy and the environment—the former because the wasted gas translated into roughly $30 billion in lost revenue, the latter because methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release.

Rhodium’s report, Untapped Potential: Reducing Global Methane Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Systems, finds that countries can eliminate methane leakage at little cost, simultaneously reducing emissions and monetizing economic waste. “Because methane is the primary component of natural gas,” according to the report, “recovering and using leaked methane can increase sales revenue. That can offset some, if not all, of

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