The New York Times reported on Feb. 4 that satellites have detected large methane emitters in much of the oil-producing areas of the world. “Large” means releasing 25 tons per hour. They found about 1,200 of these “ultra emitters” in Russia, Turkmenistan, the U.S., the Middle East and Algeria. Researchers estimate that about 400 million tons of methane are released every year, and twice that if Canada and China were included.
Exxon sets a 2050 goal of net-zero emissions from its greenhouse gas emissions in the Permian Basin in the U.S. It may take the company’s resources to really control such emissions.
In the face of such a problem, the little contribution from Half Moon Bay’s stoves, water heaters, etc., are not worth further pricing potential home buyers out of the market. The Federal Reserve recently said that an unexpected $500 expense for a middle-class household would require borrowing or selling something. Compare that to the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to retrofit an existing home with new electric appliances. Housing is already too expensive for most first-time buyers. We need affordable housing, not more half-baked ways of driving people out of town.
Risk management is an area in which costs are balanced against benefits, an area I worked in for a decade for an international financial company. The methane problem is one in which the risk of a small benefit has to be balanced against the cost to the community of higher housing costs. What’s needed is to go after the large polluting oil and gas companies (think Long Beach and Bakersfield) who can afford the mitigation measures needed. We’re not going to solve the problem by going after the pinhole leaks while ignoring the major sources of the problem, at a cost that average people can’t bear.