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Reassessing the EU’s approach to methane emissions

Reassessing the EU’s approach to methane emissions

by host

The European Union’s ambition to build a carbon-neutral economy by mid-century is a true beacon of hope in the global fight against climate change. Certainly, the mitigation of methane emissions is among the key ingredients of the EU’s decarbonization trajectory. But the path we choose to navigate this endeavor needs to be equally ambitious, economically sustainable and result oriented.

We are now at a critical juncture of the negotiations concerning the Regulation for the reduction of methane emissions. The need for immediate action is clear; COP 28 is around the corner and the EU should be able to demonstrate real leadership in decarbonizing significant parts of its energy sector. However, the ongoing deliberations among EU institutions highlight the need for a balanced approach — one that not only advances our common environmental goals, but is also economically judicious. As Europe strives for a cleaner future, the new legal framework must prioritize cost-effective strategies to secure the commitment of stakeholders and win consumer trust. While the essence of this Regulation is to curb harmful emissions, it’s equally crucial to ensure that we do not unintentionally stifle economic growth or place undue burdens on member countries.

We are now at a critical juncture of the negotiations concerning the Regulation for the reduction of methane emissions.

A case in point is the current focus on monitoring and reporting methane emissions from inactive oil and gas wells. While this might seem like a logical step, it’s important to question its real-world efficacy. Recent studies reveal a startling fact: a significant majority of methane emissions, at least in Romania, originate from a small fraction of its total oil and gas installations. With over 50,000 wells drilled in the past 150 years, only a fraction remains operational today. Thus, the emphasis on inactive wells might be misplaced.

Daniel Apostol. Photo credits (author – Photomedia EM360, source – Photomedia EM360)

By channeling substantial financial and human capital toward monitoring these dormant wells, we risk sidelining more pressing environmental concerns. The focus should be on the largest contributors to methane emissions, ensuring that resources are not squandered on dormant installations.

Startling fact: a significant majority of methane emissions, at least in Romania, originate from a small fraction of its total oil and gas installations.

The economic ramifications of such policies cannot be overlooked. Preliminary estimates indicate that the Romanian oil and gas industry alone might face a staggering cost of over €1 billion in the coming decade if the current draft Regulation remains unchanged. The initial claim that implementation costs are insignificant proves to be rather unfounded. These costs passed on to consumers inflate energy prices and potentially undermine the security of supply — a double whammy for the average European citizen. Specifically, a staggering amount of money with no evident benefit is never a good policy.

Natural gas is poised to play a pivotal role in Europe’s energy transition. As the Continent gradually shifts towards a decarbonized economy, methane emissions are naturally expected to decrease. Any piece of regulation that artificially inflates operational costs could derail this progression and jeopardize the expansion of renewable energy production in the EU. Our priorities should turn toward enhancing cross-regional energy flows, bolstering existing infrastructure for supply security, and most crucially, fostering the growth of decarbonized gaseous fuels, especially hydrogen.

Every moment we spend on ineffective policies is a moment lost in the genuine fight against climate change.

In this critical juncture of policymaking, Europe must steer clear of ideologically-driven debates that offer minimal practical solutions. In conclusion, as we forge ahead, it’s essential that the future Regulation’s successful implementation serves as a beacon for nations worldwide. Let’s champion approaches that offer tangible results in mitigating climate change and usher in a sustainable future. The planet’s clock is ticking, and every moment we spend on ineffective policies is a moment lost in the genuine fight against climate change. We have a decade to make a difference. The choices we make today will echo through generations.

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