PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Study: US Spewing 50% More Methane Than EPA Says

Cows stand in a chamber where the air flow can be controlled and gases in the air measured at a barn at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Prairie du Sac, Wis., Aug. 29, 2013. Scientists are looking at whether changing cows’ diets can reduce the amount of methane they breathe out as they digest. Methane is a greenhouse gas. (M.L. Johnson/AP)

Cows stand in a chamber where the air flow can be controlled and gases in the air measured at a barn at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Prairie du Sac, Wis., Aug. 29, 2013. Scientists are looking at whether changing cows’ diets can reduce the amount of methane they breathe out as they digest. Methane is a greenhouse gas. (M.L. Johnson/AP)

The United States is spewing 50 percent more methane — a potent heat-trapping gas — than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

That means methane may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say. Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn’t stay in the air as long.

Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, according to the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The study estimates that in 2008, the U.S. poured 49 million tons of methane into the air. That means U.S. methane emissions trapped about as much heat as all the carbon dioxide pollution coming from cars, trucks, and planes in the country in six months.

That’s more than the 32 million tons estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration or the nearly 29 million tons reckoned by the European Commission.

University of Michigan scientist Eric Kort was one of the researches involved in the study, and joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the findings.

“One of the things that’s becoming very clear is, in the case of methane, we don’t have a very good grasp of what emissions currently are,” Kort says. “So we don’t actually know very well how we could reduce it, or if they are being reduced.”

Guest

  • Eric Kort, professor in the department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

June 6 Comment

Introducing A New Here & Now Website

Coming June 9, 2016, Here & Now listeners and visitors will experience our stories and journalism online in a whole new way.

June 3 Comment

Teenagers Create Impromptu Exhibit At San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art

As the pair toured the museum, they wondered if they could do better. So 16-year-old Kevin Nguyen decided to get creative.

June 3 3 Comments

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Author Explores Conformity, Mental Health In New Teen Novel

Matthew Quick published his fourth young adult book, "Every Exquisite Thing," this week.

June 2 13 Comments

Do Meal Kits Provide Great Taste Along With Convenience?

Resident chef Kathy Gunst tested a multitude of meal kits, and gives co-host Jeremy Hobson the inside scoop.