Fossil companies in the United States worry about imperilling their public image by flaring far too much leftover natural gas from their operations, despite their on-the-record pronouncements that they have the problem under control, according to a secret recording obtained and published by the New York Times last week.
“We’re just flaring a tremendous amount of gas,” Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, told a June, 2019 convened by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).
“This pesky natural gas,” he added. “The value of it is very minimal,” particularly to companies drilling mainly for oil.
With fossils treating flaring as a way to get rid of a cheap byproduct that sells for a far lower price than oil, Ness and others weren’t concerned about the deeply wasteful and climate-busting impact of releasing more methane and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
Ness cast the industry’s bad PR around flaring as a “huge, huge threat” to its continuing effort to spin gas as a clean, climate friendly energy source, making it “damaging the industry’s image, particularly among younger generations,” the Times writes.
“What’s our message going forward?” he asked. “What’s going to stick with those young people and make them support oil and gas?”
The Times says it has an 82-minute recording of the meeting, “concluding with a panel discussion that covered a wide range of issues including job creation, the threats posed by solar and wind energy, and the federal leasing of oil and gas rights. The audio was provided by an organization dedicated to tracking climate policy that said the recording had been made by an industry official who attended the meeting.”
Three participants, including IPAA moderator Ryan Ullman, said the recording reflected what happened at the meeting, writes Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi.
“The remarks reflect the concerns of an industry that has presented itself as part of the solution to climate change, and natural gas as an important ‘bridge fuel’ that can help the world shift away from coal, the dirtiest-burning energy source, toward renewable energy,” Tabuchi adds. “Natural gas, when burned (whether in a flare, or to fuel a household oven), typically emits just half the planet-warming greenhouse gases that coal does. But by flaring off natural gas, rather than capturing it for use, companies are creating pollution without creating usable energy.”
Research has also shown that oil and gas drilling, particularly fracking, can release methane that is 84 times more potent a climate pollutant than carbon dioxide during the 20-year span when humanity must get its greenhouse gas emissions under control. “Methane can also escape faulty flares, and companies sometimes also deliberately release the gas from wells and pipelines in a practice known as venting,” the Times says.
The New York Times has full detail on this story here.