President Biden is expected to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal land Wednesday. The move marks one of the first actions taken by the Biden administration as part of its plan to combat climate change and shift toward renewable energy, and will be resisted by the fossil fuel industry.
Robert Howarth is a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University and a faculty fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability. He studies the greenhouse gas footprint of methane extracted from shale formations such as the Marcellus shale. Howarth authored a study in Biogeosciences demonstrating that increased emissions from the oil and gas industry prompted a global spike in atmospheric methane.
“A decade ago, one might argue that we could use natural gas as a bridge fuel, substituting for coal since gas emits less carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, though, the rapid increase in natural gas production from shale over the past years has led to a global increase in methane emissions. Since methane is such a powerful gas, these methane emissions make natural gas an even more climate-damaging fuel than coal. And in any case, with the passage of time, we no longer can afford to burn even low-emission fossil fuels.
“If we are to meet the targets of the U.N. COP21 climate agreement from December 2015, the world must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels. President Biden and his administration are taking an important step in the right direction by limiting oil and gas development on federal lands.”
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