Oil and gas methane pollution: “intensity” is industry’s latest distraction

Energy In Depth, a front group for the oil and gas industry, has baked-up a new misinformation campaign to distort the truth about the pervasive problem with methane pollution from oil and gas operations. Their trick is to confuse the public on the difference between total methane pollution they release into the atmosphere and intensity” of methane pollution they release from each facility.

What does that mean?
In other words, Energy In Depth wants us to ignore these facts about total methane pollution emitted by the oil and gas industry:

Instead, Energy In Depth wants us to focus on data suggesting individual oil and gas facilities are polluting less–what industry is calling methane emissions “intensity.”  

Here’s their trick.
The trickery comes when Energy In Depth chooses to leave their math incomplete so as to paint an inaccurately rosy climate picture.  

From 2011 to 2017, oil and natural gas production rose 65 percent and 19 percent, respectively, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Information Administration. That means there are many more oil and gas production facilities, and therefore many more opportunities for the oil and gas opportunity to pollute.

The next logical step is to take methane pollution “intensity”–again, methane emissions per facility–and multiply it by the number of facilities across the U.S to calculate the oil and gas industry’s total methane pollution.

Energy In Depth doesn’t do this because the math–and an accurate picture–shows climate disaster from a methane pollution problem that demands state and federal rules to cut methane, and ultimately policies that would keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Why they’re doing this.
Energy In Depth is compelled to do this because, as climate impacts become more obvious and more costly, public opinions are changing.  So, even oil and gas companies that a short time ago denied global warming existed are now scrambling to spin their operations in the most climate friendly light.

However, the rate of pollution per facility from oil and gas doesn’t matter to our climate.  It only matters how much total greenhouse gas pollution the oil and gas industry is emitting. And the oil and gas industry is emitting significantly more methane pollution than the EPA is estimating.  

Don’t be confused.
When an industry trade group like Energy In Depth or the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) or an oil and gas company talk about “intensity” rather than “total” pollution, they’re intentionally distracting from the real urgency of a problem that they are causing.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world has 11 years to dramatically cut methane and total carbon pollution to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.  Distractions, misinformation, and rhetorical trickery from the oil and gas industry obstruct the hard work necessary for the world to get there.

They must be called out and corrected.

(note: this blog was updated at 3:30pm eastern, 4/26/2019)