The number of oil and gas rigs in the United States has increased an astonishing 38 percent over the past year. That’s according to S&P Global Platts Analytics, which reported this week that the country had 1,070 rigs at the end of January, up from just 773 a year earlier.
Experts expressed fear that all of this new development does not bode well for the planet. “This will have a very significant climate impact,” says Romany Webb, climate law fellow with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. “The oil and gas industry is a huge source of methane, which is a really potent greenhouse gas. And then on top of that you also have the carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of this oil and gas. So this is very concerning from a climate perspective.”
Webb links the increase in drilling, in part, to the recent rise in prices for crude oil and natural gas. “Oil is now above $60 a barrel, which is what the industry always said that they needed to ramp up production,” she says.
Experts also connect the boom to the policies of the Trump administration, which has prioritized the extraction of oil, natural gas and coal over the development of renewable energies even as the planet continues to warm. “That the hottest years in human history coincide with a dramatic increase in U.S. drilling for oil and gas is a reminder of what a rogue nation we now live in,” says noted environmentalist Bill McKibben.
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