Methane Gas from LNG Production is a Climate Emergency

By Aditi Sen
This is an opinion piece by RAN’s Climate & Energy Program Director, Aditi Sen, originally published in Newsweek.

Due to climate change parts of India, where I’m from, are questioning whether they will be habitable for humans in the future. Last year, heatwaves killed 61,600 people in Europe. A month ago, going outside for a day in Washington, D.C., felt like inhaling 22 cigarettes because of the smoke coming from Canadian wildfires. Over 20 million acres of wild lands are burning there, 21 times above the average this decade.

Recently more than 100 million people in the United States were under heat advisories, where dangerous weather burns crops, delivers killing heat strokes, and threatens power grid failures, with people trying to stay cool running their air conditioners all night long. This is on top of fires and floods. California’s Death Valley will experience the hottest temperatures ever recorded on the planet—which also happened in 2020 and 2021.

These events are not random. They’re clearly linked to climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Scientists have issued dire warnings, yet fossil fuel companies expand supply, making record profits with help from major banks. Since the Paris climate agreement was signed, banks have poured $5.5 trillion dollars of financing into fossil fuel companies. Last year, banks pumped over $660 billion dollars of cash into fossil fuels while thousands of people died from flooding in Nigeria, India, and Pakistan. This doesn’t include the tens of thousands who died in the European heatwave.

One of the worst sources of climate chaos isn’t the usual suspects like coal or oil. It’s methane gas that was rebranded in recent decades by the energy industry as liquefied natural gas or LNG. What is called LNG is mostly methane, a gas that has 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide. Not only is methane gas a dangerous climate pollutant, it is also a bad business bet. It faces a money-losing glut and competition from renewables. Europe is aiming to have 45 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030. Asian environmental organizations like CEED Philippines reject that their region must switch from coal to gas and then to renewables. Instead, they present the proof that renewables can, and must, scale now.

A methane gas pipeline explodes every two days in the U.S., on average. The build out of methane gas facilities is also happening in Black, brown, and Indigenous communities in the Gulf South that have for decades been dealing with the toxic impacts of petrochemicals. Methane gas is not a transition fuel, it is a fossil fuel that we cannot afford to expand.

Despite the deaths and explosions, banks continue to fund LNG with over 25 export projects being proposed in the U.S. Gulf alone. This is up from the four currently operating. One of the most terrible facilities is the Rio Grande Valley Project by NextDecade that recently announced that due to support from banks like JPMorgan Chase they have enough financing despite French banks pulling out.

While the Esto’k Gna people of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe in Brownsville, Texas, can’t go outside because of the heat, they are fighting to stop this project from being built on their sacred ancestral lands, that is also subject to falling debris from SpaceX explosions. Yet, banks and the government decided that a methane gas project that is 984 acres, bigger than New York City’s Central Park, should be built on the last deepwater port there that is free from oil and petrochemical shipping on the Texas Gulf coast. JPMorgan Chase showered the methane gas sector with $8 billion dollars since the Paris agreement.

How many people have to die before banks understand that no more fossil fuel projects can be funded? When will they heed the world’s call for financing climate mitigation, transition, and adaptation instead of fossil fuels? What once in 1,000-year storm, flood, or fire will happen before they move as fast as the world needs them to? How many times will they be complicit in violating Indigenous sovereignty and human rights before listening to the people who are dying from the heat and extreme weather?

Banks must stop financing any fossil fuel expansion, especially deceptive methane gas projects. They can become part of the solution that the world needs to survive.

You can take action against methane build-out: