Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fracking Helps Save the Planet

FrackingFracking Helps Save the Planet:
At least that's what people who
are worried about the possibility of catastrophic man-made global
warming should realize. From the
Wall Street Journal
U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically in recent
years, in large part because the country is making more electricity
with natural gas instead of coal.
Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas
that is widely believed to contribute to global warming, have
fallen 12% between 2005 and 2012 and are at their lowest level
since 1994, according to a recent estimate by the Energy
Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy
While other factors, including a sluggish U.S. economy and
increasing energy efficiency, have contributed to the decline in
carbon emissions from factories, automobiles and power plants, many
experts believe the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity
generation has been the biggest factor. Carbon-dioxide emissions
account for nearly 84% of greenhouse-gas emissions, while
methane—the main ingredient in natural gas—makes up 8.8%, according
to a recent Environmental Protection Agency report.
Natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal when used
to make electricity, though the calculation fails to take into
account the release of methane from natural-gas wells and
pipelines, which also contributes to climate change.
The methane issue is important since methane is a far more
powerful greenhouse gas than is carbon, but emissions from natural
gas production
can be managed
. For more background see my January column,
Promised Land of Fracking
," where I point out that rather than
cheering the benefits of fracking, activists are instead
Environmental activists, who once hailed natural gas as the
bridge fuel to the renewable energy future, have turned
with a vengeance against it
. Originally, activists who worried
about man-made global warming produced by burning fossil fuels that
emit carbon dioxide favored fracking because burning natural gas
produces about half the carbon dioxide emitted by coal. However,
local and national environmental groups have turned decisively
against shale gas based on both not-in-my-backyard concerns and the
fear that cheap natural gas undermines the economic case for solar
and wind power.
Amusingly, the perpetual self-righteous climate change scolds in
Europe, some of whom have
banned fracking
, are increasing their imports of good old
American coal. As the Journal reports:
As the U.S. has reduced its coal consumption, it has increased
its coal exports to Europe, which rose 23% in 2012 from a year
earlier, according to federal statistics. GĂ©rard Mestrallet, chief
executive of French power group
GDF Suez
SA, says that European utilities imported and burned
that coal, raising carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants in
Europe. He said as-yet unpublished figures for GDF will show an
increase in emissions last year.
Other European utilities used more coal also, likely reversing a
recent trend of carbon reductions. European carbon emissions fell
8% between 2005 and 2011, the latest year for which data are
available. In February, the German environment ministry said it
expected there was a 1.6% rise in greenhouse-gas emissions in
Germany last year.
For the sake of the planet (and pocketbooks) here's hoping that
other countries will soon join the fracking revolution and reduce
the chances of significant problems from global warming.