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Another Trump administration blow to the planet 

President Donald Trump at the G-7 summit in

President Donald Trump at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, on Monday. Credit: AP/Markus Schreiber

Letting oil and gas companies increase emissions of methane, a major contributor to climate change, is one of the least surprising actions of the Trump administration. It's also one of the most distressing.

Methane is a particularly nasty greenhouse gas. It's shorter-lasting than carbon dioxide, but up to 86 times more potent in trapping heat. So while it makes up 15 percent of emissions worldwide, it accounts for about a quarter of global warming. The Obama administration required that oil and natural gas companies, the biggest culprits in methane emissions, monitor and limit drilling and transmission leaks from wellheads, tanks and pipelines. The Trump administration, in its zeal to roll back environmental protections, is targeting methane rules, too.

This is incredibly shortsighted. And some big players in the industry agree. Exxon, Shell and BP are among those which argue, correctly, that lifting methane limits undermines the argument that natural gas, of which methane is the main component, is a cleaner, more climate change-friendly, fuel. Stopping leaks has an economic benefit, too. About 2.3 percent of natural gas produced in the United States leaks — the equivalent of emissions from as many as 94 million cars. The value of that gas is $7.6 million per day. Limiting leaks is good business. But expecting all companies to voluntarily cap methane is utter folly. Far more likely: Relaxed regulations will give bad actors license to act badly, while responsible companies continue to be responsible. And the Earth will continue to warm.

Like many of Trump's anti-environmental moves, this one likely faces a contentious court battle. But it shouldn't have come to that. This is a profoundly bad idea.

— The editorial board


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