This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 24, 2004

United States and 13 Other Countries Form Methane Energy Partnership

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on November 16th that 13 countries have joined the Methane to Markets Partnership, an international effort to capture methane emissions and convert them into energy. In the United States, the major source of methane emissions is landfill gas, but the partnership also focuses on recovering methane from coal mines and from natural gas and oil systems. Methane to Markets has the potential to reduce net methane emissions by up to 50 million metric tons of carbon equivalent annually by 2015, equivalent to eliminating the carbon emissions from 50 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants. Representatives from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom joined the United States in signing a document to formally create the Methane to Markets Partnership. See the EPA press release and the EPA's Methane to Markets Web site.

Globally, landfill gas is the third-largest human-caused source of methane. The United States is the world's largest source of landfill methane emissions, producing 26 percent of global emissions, followed by China at 11 percent, and Russia at 5 percent. Thanks in part to voluntary efforts led by the EPA, total U.S. methane emissions in 2001 were 5 percent below 1990 levels. See the EPA fact sheets on landfill gas emissions (PDF 150 KB) and on the significance of methane and U.S. efforts to reduce methane emissions (PDF 71 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

A new study by researchers at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Earth Institute at Columbia University finds that reducing emissions of methane and other trace gases could stabilize global warming even with significant levels of carbon dioxide emissions. If measures are taken to reduce these other greenhouse gases, the authors argue that "acceptable (carbon dioxide) emissions in coming decades may be greater than commonly assumed." The study (PDF 711 KB) was published in the November 16th edition of "Proceedings of the National Academies of Science."