White House nears strategy to reduce methane leaks

The White House is very close to releasing a government-wide strategy to curb emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is the main component of natural gas.

“We are in the throes of finalizing a methane strategy across the government,” White House adviser John Podesta told reporters Wednesday. “I think you can expect an announcement in the not-too-distant future.”

John Holdren, another White House adviser, said methane leaks from the use of natural gas are on the Obama administration’s radar.

“The basic story on methane, including from the [liquefied natural gas] sector, is that the emissions are definitely big enough to be worth reducing, but they’re not big enough to imperil the advantage that natural gas has over coal as a way to generate electricity,” Holdren said.

The release of the methane-reduction strategy is part of the climate change plan the White House announced in June. Reducing methane leaks would increase the greenhouse gas advantages that natural gas has over other energy sources, the White House has said.

Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club and 350.org, have called out methane, and specifically natural gas, as a particularly potent greenhouse gas that could exacerbate global warming. It can leak during natural gas drilling, liquefaction, use and transport.

“What you’ll see when the strategy comes out is a variety of focuses on how to reduce emissions,” Holdren said. “We think there are a lot of opportunities for doing that that will simply magnify the advantage that natural gas has over coal in electricity generation and also potentially over gasoline in vehicle propulsion.”