Robert L. Kleinberg, Senior Fellow, Boston University
There is widespread agreement (at least among scientists and technologists) that science and technology should inform government action. But the coupling between technology and regulation can be distressingly weak. An example is the regulation of natural gas emissions to the air from the oil and gas industry. The primary component of natural gas is methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and controlling its escape to the atmosphere is a relatively quick and painless way to moderate global climate change. In the United States, regulation of natural gas emissions from petroleum production facilities dates from 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency has been active in this area, with rules changed in 2016, 2020, and mid-2021. A new round of rulemaking is expected to commence between the time this abstract is written and the date of the seminar. So far, a constant of policy has been the acceptance of controls that are suboptimal with respect to both efficiency and effectiveness, despite rapid advances in ground-based, airborne, and space-based measurement techniques.
Innovative technology can improve both efficiency and effectiveness, relieving regulatory burdens while improving environmental performance. Policymakers and regulators need to be aware of how scientific knowledge and technological innovation can help achieve cost-effective regulation. Scientists and technologists who interact with government mandates need to better understand the processes and constraints that control and influence the design of regulation. This seminar aims to help bridge those gaps.