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Axios reporter Amy Harder tries out a virtual reality challenge cutting methane emissions at a conference June 26. Photo: Stacy MacDiarmid

Oil and gas companies are increasingly focusing on how to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s also the primary component of natural gas. At a conference underway in Washington, attendees can try for themselves with virtual reality.

Why it matters: With the world’s use of natural gas growing, determining its impact on climate change is key. While many people are familiar with carbon emissions, less awareness exists around methane. A virtual reality exhibit by the Environmental Defense Fund at the World Gas Conference is aimed at making something intangible to most people seem less so — at least virtually.

The intrigue: EDF’s exhibit allows people to virtually experience what it’s like to be a worker at an oil and natural gas well site monitoring and stopping leaks of methane. I had a chance to experience it during the conference’s first day Tuesday.

  • You start in a spaceship that tells you about why methane emissions are important, and then a robot named Bella shows how you can transport yourself to an oil and gas well site.
  • Along with goggles and headphones, you also hold what resemble video game handles, which in the experience appear as gloves and change to other gadgets as needed.
  • You then embark on what the group calls a “Methane Challenge,” having a few minutes to try to find all the leaks on the site you can, using infrared camera that can show the leaks of methane and other technologies.
  • There are apparently six leaks you can find in the virtual well site; I got four. Only two people on Tuesday found all six, an EDF spokeswoman says.

Situational awareness: EDF is the only environmental group with space at the event, whose registration fee starts at $4,000. EDF is one of the only environmental groups that works closely with the industry, despite its scrutiny of the sector’s role exacerbating climate change. The group co-sponsored its first-ever event with ExxonMobil on Monday (it was on methane).

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

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