Rabe: Landmark U.S. climate bill addresses methane

August 12, 2022

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass the Inflation Reduction Act today, which includes nearly $400 billion for clean energy initiatives. The legislation was approved by the Senate last weekend and, if signed into law, would be the country's largest-ever investment in the fight against climate change. 

Barry Rabe is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy at the Ford School. He studies U.S. climate policy, including issues of federal-state relations and the roles of respective branches of government. Rabe has written widely about these issues, including the evolution of the Clean Power Plan under President Obama and the subsequent Affordable Clean Energy Rule under President Trump, which are focal points in the current case. These are examined in his book, "Trump, the Administrative Presidency, and Federalism."

"One major component of the legislation addresses methane, a major climate pollutant that has tended to get less attention than carbon dioxide until recently," he said. "The new statute established a fee on methane releases from the oil and gas sector, designed to complement other regulatory policies that are being developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With this step, the U.S. would join Norway as only the second major national producer of oil and gas to establish a tax or fee on methane emissions in an attempt to incentivize less waste.

"Methane has value as an energy source if captured, and its waste through venting and flaring has been a major contributor to American greenhouse gas emissions. The new federal methane fee is designed to work in tandem with federal and state regulations on methane to achieve significant reductions in this potent greenhouse gas. This increases the prospects that the United States could emerge as a global leader in this area."