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Tracking Global Oil Industry Methane Emissions: Google-Backed Satellite Launched

In a monumental stride toward climate accountability, a groundbreaking satellite, supported by Alphabet Inc’s Google and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was successfully launched from California. The MethaneSAT satellite, which soared into orbit on Monday, represents a pivotal advancement in monitoring methane emissions from the world’s foremost oil and gas companies, all from the vantage point of space.

MethaneSat joins an expanding constellation of satellites already encircling the Earth, each contributing to the crucial task of collecting and transmitting data on greenhouse gas emissions. While existing initiatives like the European Space Agency and GHGSat provide valuable insights, MethaneSat promises enhanced precision and broader coverage.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) anticipates that MethaneSat’s data will hold accountable the over 50 oil and gas companies that committed to methane reduction efforts at the Dubai COP28 climate summit. Furthermore, it will aid compliance with forthcoming methane regulations in the EU and the U.S., including potential methane pollution fees.

Mark Brownstein, Senior Vice President for Energy Transition at EDF, underscores the importance of transparency: “We’ll be able to see who the laggards are, but hopefully they will use that information in a constructive way to improve their performance.”

Developed in collaboration with the New Zealand Space Agency and Harvard University, among others, MethaneSat’s data will be accessible to the public later this year. Google Cloud’s computing capabilities will facilitate the processing of this vast trove of information.

Methane emissions, originating from sources such as oil and natural gas production, agricultural waste, and landfills, possess significantly higher greenhouse potency than carbon dioxide. Despite concerns raised by the American Petroleum Institute (API) regarding third-party emissions data, the need for rigorous environmental regulation remains paramount.

Aaron Padilla, API’s Vice President of Corporate Policy, underscores the role of environmental regulators in validating data: “The environmental regulator is still going to be paramount here as the authority in terms of validating the data.”

In conclusion, MethaneSat heralds a new era of environmental accountability, harnessing cutting-edge technology to combat the urgent challenge of climate change. As the satellite embarks on its mission, hopes are high for a future where data-driven insights drive meaningful change in global emissions reduction efforts.

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