President Obama gave his final State of the Union this week and in the seven years he's been president, much has changed. There's no doubt that in terms of environmental and climate change legacy, the president has much to be proud of, including the Paris agreement, the vehicle fuel efficiency standards, as well as the Clean Power Plan. All of those will significantly reduce U.S. carbon pollution. But, before he leaves office, there is more that can and should be done to address climate change.
Methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas -- at least 25 times more potent, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. The administration set a goal to reduce the amount of methane emissions across the U.S. economy by up to 45 percent of 2012 levels by 2025. Already, the EPA proposed standards to reduce methane leaks in new facilities. That's a good first step and an indicator that the administration is serious about this issue. But, that's not enough.
We need to implement standards on existing oil and gas facilities as well if we're going to truly address the problem. Existing operations represent the majority of methane leaks in the sector. Every year, billions of cubic feet of natural gas are unnecessarily leaked by the energy sector, pouring uncombusted methane into our air. In the United States, we could heat over 5 million homes each year with the tons of natural gas emitted by the oil and gas industry alone.
Those leaks don't just damage our climate; they waste energy and threaten communities and workers. Union members are at the forefront of advancing safety, training, and quality throughout the energy sector. There are low-cost solutions that already exist to plug these industrial leaks and keep natural gas in the system, which many companies are beginning to adopt. But waiting to make these changes is a squandered opportunity to reduce waste, create jobs and address climate change.
President Obama has shown remarkable leadership on climate change. Before he goes, he should make America's methane standards complete by extending them to existing facilities. Doing so will ensure the president's legacy of protecting the environment while creating good jobs. From vehicle fuel economy standards -- which are projected to create 50,000 direct jobs in light-duty manufacturing (parts and assembly) by 2030 -- to investments and policies driving renewable energy (as of 2014 there were an estimated 78,000 workers in the wind industry and 174,000 in the solar industry), the president's focus on reducing pollution has also created quality jobs.
Keeping natural gas in the system is a significant opportunity to put American workers squarely at the forefront of developing, manufacturing, and implementing technologies that reduce waste and pollution, and will provide high-quality jobs and stimulate local economies.
Now that would be a great thing to add to his legacy.