Today Reuter’s published a plea from Royal Dutch Shell calling for the Trump White House to tighten rules to plug methane leaks. On the surface this seems like a really big deal but I caught the familiar aroma of oil and gas bullshit. Closer inspection of the Shell methane statement revealed that it’s just more oil and gas flimflam.
After about a decade of hearing the oil and gas industry promise to do better, do more, and to contain their methane leaks, I had a Pavlovian response when I read this:
“It [methane] is a big part of the climate problem and frankly we can do more,” Watkins said in an interview with Reuters at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston.
I watched as my air in Wise County turned brown and my water turned black. First they denied any responsibility. When that didn’t work, they said: we can do more, we can do better. But they never did. Year, after year, after year it’s the same story. At the February screening of the Newsy documentary, Blowout, Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, when faced with visual evidence of the reckless operations first denied, then pointed out that oil and gas is essential, and finally he said: “we can do better.”
But Shell didn’t stop at the “do better” promise. They urged the government to make them do better with regulation.
“We don’t usually tell governments how to do their job but we’re ready to break with that and say, ‘Actually, we want to tell you how to do your job.’”
She urged the EPA “to put in a regulatory framework that will both regulate existing methane emissions by [but] also future methane emissions.”
Including existing sources is a first so I will give them that. But this is no sweat off oil and gas. Shell knows damn well (and I know well because I am out on the ground all the time) that there is currently no way in hell the oil and gas industry can be adequately regulated. No state has the capacity and the EPA is currently controlled by fossil fuel.
But there’s more: even IF this industry can ever contain methane (they can’t because the system is designed to leak and fail) there is still the fact that burning fossil fuels creates CO2. And we need to get to zero carbon emissions in about 11 years to prevent the worst of climate change.
While I applauded Shell for admitting they are the problem and that they can do more, containing methane is something they have been promising to do for quite a while now. So Shell, go ahead and do more: commit to a managed decline of your industry on a timeline that will actually prevent catastrophic climate change.