Offsets from coal mine methane capture are not the next hot commodity (“Captured Mine Methane in Appalachia Could Prove a Hot Commodity in Calif.,” Dec. 2). The only heat from such a scheme will be what is added to the atmosphere from continued emissions generated by coal mining and coal-burning power plants.
Generating offsets from coal mine methane capture provides the opposite incentive to combating emissions-intensive fossil fuels like coal. Rather, these offsets pay coal mines, adding a new revenue stream for one of the highest-polluting industries in the world.
Even worse, Consol’s pilot methane capture project at the McElroy mine in West Virginia converts methane into carbon dioxide that is then vented into the atmosphere. No emissions reduction occurs when one pollutant is taken out of the air and replaced with another.
The claim that “Without a price on carbon, none of these projects will happen” is false. The Environmental Protection Agency has carried out the Coalbed Methane Outreach Program since 1994.
Through the voluntary initiative, coal companies have reduced methane emissions and recovered methane for use in power generation or injection into natural gas lines, among other end-use options. Numerous coal mines currently participate in the CMOP. The recovered methane is not used for offsets, and the program was not motivated by a price on carbon or cap-and-trade initiatives.
Offsets from methane capture do not fulfill an otherwise unfulfilled need — methane capture projects already exist; rather, they focus on generating profits and creating new markets for environmental commodities.