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Marshall: Plugging Methane Leaks Should Be a ‘No-Brainer’ for Canadian Fossils

Even if Canadian fossils are intent on obstructing even the most basic national response to climate change, the least they could do is get behind methane emission reductions that cost them less than C$10 per tonne and deliver $9 billion in economic benefits, Environmental Defence climate program manager Dale Marshall argues this week in The Hill Times.

“For 25 years, oil and gas companies, and their lobby arms such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), have successfully worked to forestall Canadian action on climate change. Over that time, carbon emissions from the petroleum sector have continued to grow, making it the greatest and fastest growing source of climate pollution in the country,” Marshall writes.

Over the last three years, the fossil lobby’s relentless efforts “have continued to bear fruit”, he adds, “not for environmental protection, jobs for average Canadians, or even the coffers of provincial governments, but for the narrow interests of multinational oil companies.” Tar sands/oil sands crude is ludicrously designated “clean” under the federal Clean Fuel Standard, and “the Pan-Canadian Framework on climate change allows emissions from the oil and gas sector to grow through 2030, while the transportation, buildings, and electricity sectors are expected to significantly reduce their carbon output.”

But as responses to climate change go, Marshall says nothing else is as easy—or as urgent—as methane controls.

“This should be a no-brainer,” he writes. “Methane is a potent climate disruptor, 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. So reductions make a big difference, especially in the short term. Reducing methane is also cheap—Canada’s 45% reduction target can be achieved at less than $10 per tonne—and off-the-shelf technologies exist already to achieve it. The methane is coming from leaking pumpjacks, tanks, and other industrial equipment—plug the leaks, fix the equipment, and reduce wasted methane.”

While the issue is being cast as yet another jurisdictional fight between federal and provincial governments, he adds, “the underlying story is about oil and gas companies resisting the only climate policy that is focused on reducing carbon emissions from their sector.”

But now, because Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, have proposed weaker regulations, “the ball is in the federal government’s court,” Marshall warns, making methane controls “an important test of the government’s resolve on climate change. If the federal government doesn’t hold the line and insist on western provinces grabbing this low-hanging fruit, then what hope is there for the harder climate decisions to come?”