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Lawmakers issue warning about dangerous scheme riddling energy sector: 'There is no incentive to ensure the accuracy'

The move to greener, more sustainable energy sources will be far slower if companies continue to get away with it.

The move to greener, more sustainable energy sources will be far slower if companies continue to get away with it.

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United States senators have issued a warning about "certified natural gas," a dirty energy source that the oil and gas industry has packaged as environmentally friendly.

What's happening?

The Guardian reported progressive senators had written to regulators in mid-February to warn about the inappropriately labeled energy source, which the gas sector has tried to claim produces far less polluting gases than other dirty fuels. 

However, methane is typically among the gas's main components, and it is far more potent in terms of planet-warming potential than carbon dioxide. The United Nations has suggested it is 80 times worse than carbon gas in the first 20 years of being in the atmosphere. 

"The reality is that gas certification schemes allow the oil and gas industry to justify the continued expansion of methane gas use and undermine efforts towards a just transition to renewables," the letter read, with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker among those who have signed.

Why is "certified natural gas" so troubling?

Certified natural gas is a perfect example of greenwashing in action, with dirty energy companies trying to push the myth that it is better for the planet than it really is.

If these companies continue to get away with burning planet-warming gases under the guise of them being environmentally friendly, the move to greener, more sustainable energy sources like solar and wind will be far slower, and more damage will be done to a planet that's already warming at an unsustainable rate.

The "certified" aspect of the controversial fuel is approved by third-party companies who have developed a set of standards to say that gas is responsibly sourced and that producers are taking action to reduce emissions.

But these companies have been found to be unreliable, with the Guardian pointing to auditing by Earthworks and Oil Change International that found industry leader Project Canary was failing to detect methane leaks. 

"The gas companies' profits depend on the monitoring companies certifying their gas, and the monitoring companies' profits depend on willing industry customers," the senators' letter read. "Thus, there is no incentive to ensure the accuracy of emissions measurements."

What can be done about greenwashing?

Holding companies accountable is really important to instigate meaningful change. Spending your money with truly sustainable businesses with provable planet-friendly credentials will demonstrate the appetite of consumers for products and services that do little or no harm to the environment.

Of course, that's tricky when dirty energy sources are still so prominent in everyday life. But, for example, switching to an electric car will eliminate the need to spend money on gasoline from polluting companies, while taking advantage of sustainable energy sources like solar and wind at home will also reduce the need to rely on dirty energy for power. 

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