Plunge In Carbon Dioxide Output Due to Natural Gas Fracking
Despite a consistent narrative about how humans are chipping away at a fragile natural environment, recent data suggests that the atmosphere of man-caused emissions may be improving. The U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) June energy report says that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically, and all signs suggest that this trend will likely continue, says Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation.
- According to the EIA report, energy-related carbon dioxide fell to 5,473 million metric tons (MMT) in 2011.
- That's down from a high of 6,020 MMT in 2007, and only a little above 1995's level of 5,314 MMT.
- Better yet, emissions in the first quarter of 2012 fell at an even faster rate -- down 7.5 percent from the first quarter of 2011 and 8.5 percent from the same time in 2010.
- If the rest of 2012 follows its first quarter trend, we may see total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions drop to early-1990s levels.
Both political parties would like to claim credit for this fortunate phenomenon, yet analysis suggests that much of this improvement was due to actions by the private sector. Specifically, the shale gas revolution, made possible by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, seems to have greatly bettered emissions.
- Increasingly, power plants are turning to natural gas because it has become abundant, and therefore cheap.
- This intensified use helps to reduce emissions because, despite great improvements in cleaning up coal, natural gas still has much lower levels of emissions.
Given this beneficial side effect of heavier natural gas usage, it should be seen as highly fortuitous that natural gas recently caught up with coal as the single greatest source of domestic electricity (each produces roughly 32 percent of domestic consumption).
Source: Merrill Matthews, "Plunge In CO2 Output Due to Natural Gas Fracking," Investor's Business Daily, July 17, 2012.
* * * * *
United States Cutting Carbon Dioxide Production Dramatically
The United States is dramatically cutting its production of carbon dioxide. Proof of that has come from both the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris and the Energy Information Administration in Washington, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Reports from these agencies and others confirm that the United States is leading the way globally in the campaign to cut emissions.
- On May 24, the IEA reported that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions "have now fallen by 430 million tons (7.7 percent) since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions."
- The reasons for that big reduction, says the IEA, are lower oil use, the economic downturn, "and a substantial shift from coal to gas in the power sector."
IEA's assertion that much of the reduction in emissions stems from efficiency gains due to the greater exploitation of natural gas is crucial. Because the United States is a leader in this industry and is among the first to employ it widely, it will likely lead the way in cutting emissions in the near future.
- During the first four months of this year, coal-fired electricity generation in the United States fell by 21 percent compared to the same period last year, while gas-fired generation soared by 34 percent.
- This contributed to a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of 7.8 percent from the first quarter in 2011.
- Meanwhile, complicated environmental emissions standards in Europe have actually led energy producers there to increase output from coal while shelving natural gas.
In addition, earlier this month, Lawrence M. Cathles, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University, published a new study that found that utilizing natural gas to displace coal would be far faster and cheaper than attempting to use nuclear energy and renewables, and better yet, could reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 40 percent.
Nevertheless, much of the environmental lobby remains adamantly opposed to the use of natural gas, despite its cleanliness advantage over coal and the fact that it produces seven times more electricity than wind and solar combined.
Source: Robert Bryce, "Inside the Strange World of 'Green Energy' Politics and How It's Ruining the U.S.," Fox News, July 17, 2012.
* * * * *
"The Paradox of Energy Efficiency," Reason Magazine, July 17, 2012.
Bjørn Lomborg, "The Problem with a 'Green Domestic Product,'" Slate, July 15, 2012.