Will President Trump Listen to Big Oil on Climate? It’s Good Business

At an energy industry conference held in Houston recently, several major oil companies made man-bites-dog news when they announced support for federal climate rules requiring them to cut methane pollution.  

ExxonMobil, BP and Equinor all explicitly endorsed the direct regulation of this potent greenhouse gas. Royal Dutch Shell went even further by calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to not only preserve but strengthen methane pollution standards for oil and gas operations in the United States.

By speaking out publicly, these companies are making clear that they understand the urgent need to address the pervasive problem of oil and gas production’s methane pollution. Their endorsements are timely because, according to a schedule the Trump administration announced last year, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will soon propose to weaken or entirely eliminate federal methane safeguards for the oil and gas industry.

I hope he doesn’t. The benefits of supporting methane rules, if President Donald Trump and his administration heed the call of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, are more than improvements of operational efficiency. With a nationwide effort to cut methane emissions, a boom in job creation will happen in the already emerging American methane mitigation industry.

I should know: I’m the chief executive of Rebellion Photonics, a Houston-based methane mitigation company that does continuous monitoring of gas leaks such as methane using our unique and fully automated gas detection cameras.  

When Rebellion first started, most oil and gas companies didn’t realize or frankly care that there were methane leaks at their sites because they couldn’t see them. Through the deployment of our technology and others, that is no longer the case. It’s encouraging to hear industry leaders taking this issue seriously and taking a leading role fighting the climate effects of methane leaks.    

Today, there are more than 130 companies like ours, including 590 different support facilities in 46 states producing and servicing methane mitigation technologies.  Our industry is growing, and with that comes a demand for high-paying, blue-collar American jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas. Everywhere the industry needs to cut methane pollution, there are methane mitigation companies ready to take on the challenge.  

And that challenge is real. Methane pollution is a problem for the oil and gas industry for many reasons.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. So, when it leaks — as we’ve seen with our clients at every step of the natural gas supply chain — so do potential profits for companies. In fact, a recent study found that more than $2 billion worth of natural gas is wasted annually in the United States, lost revenue that could have been sold to heat homes, generate electricity or resulted in savings that could have been passed down to the customer.

Methane pollution is also a very potent climate pollutant. When released into the atmosphere uncombusted, methane is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet in the near term.  As impacts from extreme weather events change public opinion on climate change, oil and gas companies have paid increasingly more attention to ways in which they can mitigate their release of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA methane pollution rules on the books right now are a first step toward addressing these problems. They require the best-available technologies to regularly detect and repair methane leaks.

In Colorado, where a similar methane pollution rule was first enacted in the United States, operators reported 50 percent fewer leaks just three years after the rule was adopted. Production continued to rise, and many operators in Colorado proudly tout their reductions of climate pollutants.  California recently enacted strong new safeguards, while Pennsylvania and New Mexico are expected to soon promulgate rules similar to Colorado.

Federal rules are supported by oil and gas companies because it helps their bottom line. Rules help reduce waste, provide new revenue from sales of captured methane, improve worker safety and increase operational efficiency. They limit threats to our vulnerable climate and bolster an industry of good-paying jobs.

In short, Shell and these other oil and gas companies know what they’re talking about. Methane pollution is a problem. Methane pollution safeguards are good for business.  

Will Trump and Wheeler listen to the very industry they’re trying to protect and end their plans to roll back safeguards to cut methane pollution from oil and gas production?


Robert Kester is CEO and co-founder of Rebellion Photonics and is responsible for strategic direction, operational management, sales administration, development and deployment and administration.

Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.