Methane emissions in the San Francisco Bay Area might be much higher than anticipated. In January 2017, results of a new study from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were released, revealing nearly double the amount of the powerful, climate-warming gas.

The bulk of the emissions came from biological sources — mostly landfills — but natural gas leakage also played a role, according to the study, conducted by researchers Seongeun Jeong and Marc Fischer. In total, the methane emission level was approximately 1.8 times the amount measured by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).

Greenhouse Gas in the Bay Area

The main component of natural gas, methane absorbs the sun’s heat, effectively warming the atmosphere. A greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the largest source of emissions comes from the oil and gas industry. In California, the Bay Area’s nine counties produce roughly 10% of the state’s methane emissions.

Discovering the true state of methane emissions now will likely be monumentally helpful to the state in the future. California is currently working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — serving as a roughly 30 percent decrease — so this finding paints a better picture of current environmental conditions.

Action Underway to Improve Air Quality in the Bay Area

In January, BAAQMD officials released a plan to reduce greenhouse gases in the region, even if the Trump Administration refuses to provide federal support. Deemed “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate,” the blueprint consists of 85 climate-boosting measures. Some of these include new rules, grants, partnerships with public agencies, and public education programs designed to lower pollution levels.

Officials believe the 270-page plan offers substantial direction for the Bay Area to meet federal health standards for smog and soot. A state law mandates an 80% reduction of global warming gases below 1990 levels by 2050. Many details still need to be worked out, but this should serve as a solid starting point.

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