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By: Rob Brundrett, President, Ohio Oil & Gas Association

A recent study from the Boston University School of Public Health — funded by a well-known anti-oil and gas group called the Environmental Defense Fund — attempts to suggest methane produced by the oil and gas industry has directly led to an increase in asthma cases. The assertion that the oil and gas industry is directly responsible for the rise in asthma cases is not only flawed but also contradicts several key facts about the state of the environment and energy production in the United States.

First and foremost, the United States has experienced a significant improvement in air quality over the past two decades. Contrary to what alarmists claim, our nation now boasts some of the cleanest air in recent history. This remarkable achievement should not be understated, as it highlights the rigorous environmental standards and technological advancements that have been embraced by the oil and gas industry.

In fact, while natural gas and oil production in the United States has increased to record-breaking levels, emissions have simultaneously decreased. In Ohio alone, natural gas in the power sector has helped reduce carbon emissions by more than 37 percent over the past 20 years, and methane emissions are following the same trajectory nationwide — dropping by nearly 10 percent since 2005. Promoting natural gas production in the United States is good for the environment and for human health, as we abide by far more rigorous processes and regulations than other large energy consuming and producing countries such as China, Russia and India.

This is a testament to the industry’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint. The advancements in technology, such as cleaner-burning fuels and more efficient extraction methods, have contributed to this commendable progress. It is unjust to ignore these achievements and solely focus on purported negative outcomes.

The study’s implication that the industry is haphazardly and carelessly leaking methane is particularly misleading. Methane is a valuable resource and one we are actively seeking and selling. It is in the economic interest of the industry to capture and utilize methane efficiently. There are stringent regulations and industry standards in place to prevent the unintentional release of methane. It is in the industry’s best interest to capture and utilize every molecule of methane they produce.

Furthermore, the study’s focus on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector overlooks other significant sources of methane emissions. Natural methane emissions occur from various sources, including swamps, bogs and wetlands. These natural sources have been emitting methane long before the Industrial Revolution, and they will continue to do so. It is an oversimplification and misrepresentation to attribute methane emissions solely to the oil and gas industry.

Farming, another critical component of our society, is also a substantial emitter of methane. Livestock digestion processes produce methane as a byproduct, and this has been a longstanding natural occurrence.

No one can deny that access to affordable, reliable energy has played a pivotal role in enhancing the human condition for generations. From improved healthcare to enhanced transportation systems, energy is the lifeblood of modern civilization. Longer life expectancy is a concrete result of this progress, with people around the world living healthier, longer lives, thanks to the availability of abundant and affordable energy, particularly natural gas and oil.

The Boston University study was published more than four months ago and has received little to no attention or fanfare to this point. If the claims made in the study held convincing validity, it is safe to assume it would have led the national news for days, if not weeks. Instead, it leaps to faulty conclusions in its pursuit to pin all negative outcomes on an industry it wishes to demonize. Contained within this very study is an admission that “our results here are subject to several assumptions and uncertainties throughout the modeling chain.”

To reiterate, the United States has made remarkable progress in improving air quality, even as energy production has increased. Painting oil and gas operations as the villain behind asthma cases is an oversimplification that tries to scapegoat an entire industry and conceal the progress that continues to be made.

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