Now this is interesting:
A new report discussed in the FT claims that American shale gas production has actually reduced carbon emissions by 450 million tons over the past five years, during which fracking came into widespread use. As the report mentions, gas—mostly obtained via fracking—has grown in usage by 38 percent over the past year alone, while much dirtier coal has fallen by nearly 20 percent over the same time period. The correlation between the rise of fracking and a fall in carbon output is not a coincidence. While greens have spent years chasing a global green unicorn, America has been moving towards reducing its carbon footprint on its own, and fracking has been the centerpiece of this change.
In fact, America’s drop in carbon emissions is greater than that of any other country in the survey. Greens have often praised Europe and Australia for their foresight in adopting forward-thinking carbon-trading schemes, while chastising America for its reluctance to do the same. Yet the numbers are out, and America has actually performed better than its carbon-trading peers. From an empirical standpoint, fracking has a much better track record at reducing emissions than the current green dream.
Cutting CO2 emissions was not the intent of fracking and shale gas, but that has been a pleasant side effect. It is a simple fact that natural gas gets you much more energy bang for the CO2 buck than coal. In fact, I would not be surprised if it does better than many of the “green” fuels we are being force-fed. Moving to natural gas isn’t a permanent solution. But 450 million tons is a massive reduction: more than the reductions produced by food miles and cap and trade combined. That’s progress — the sort of progress that can buy time while more long-term solutions like fusion are worked out.
I’m not going to pretend that fracking does not come with its own basket of environmental concerns. I live in central Pennsylvania, where a lot of fracking is going on (uh, that wasn’t supposed to sound that dirty). While the concerns are a bit overblown, they are not zero. But even then, fracking may still be better than coal, which can involve such things as mountaintop removal. Moving to natural gas is a positive in almost every way.
The Green’s reluctance to acknowledge this does, I think, undercut their claims to be pure-hearted environmentalists. Anyone who really cares about global warming would say that, while switching to gas isn’t a perfect solution, it’s a massive improvement. But the environmentalists have set a currently impossible goal of no CO2 emissions (the politicians, by contrast, have set goals of reducing CO2 emissions fifty years from now when they will all be dead).
What’s astonishing is that the Americas are rapidly becoming the world’s energy epicenter. Fracking, shale and deep water are quickly sidelining the Middle East as an increasingly minor player in the global energy market. I predicted this … Lee predicted this … years ago when oil prices first began to spike. That was a signal that we needed more energy and industry has responded. If we had imposed price controls like many Democrats wanted to, we’d not only be out of oil, but not exploiting these newer greener energy sources.
Here’s a quote from Lee. Expand it to fossil fuels in general and you’ll see, as in all things, that he was a fucking prophet:
The difficult argument is to explain to people, calmly and rationally, the situation with oil. The easy thing to do is terrify people into thinking that, just like sucking on a milkshake, one day we’re just going to run out. As I’ve said before, technological advances will make oil obsolete long before we ever actually run out of it. If oil were actually in any danger of running out any time soon it would be $500,000 a barrel instead of $100. (That’s freshman economics, folks. Everyone should understand that.)
Oil will never run out. Ever. There is too much money to be made in the technology industry for the world to keep relying solely on oil. We don’t need nightmares, we don’t need screaming histrionics, we don’t need end of the world scenarios. What we need are smart people taking the problem seriously, and finding workable, reasonable solutions to transition the world from a petroleum economy into the next generation.
Fracking and shale are the technology that is bridging us to the future. They are what will keep our economy going while we develop ever more efficient and less fossil-dependent energy sources. And by exploiting them, we are reducing our carbon footprint, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing our environmental impact. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine — not by a long shot — but it’s certainly a lot more rainbowy than the alternative.
So the question to fracking opponents becomes this: why do you guys not care about the environment?
(PS – In finding that Lee quote, I dug up a lot of old posts. Here is another good one. I miss that guy.)
Update: Spain’s heralded green energy industry is collapsing without massive subsidies. I don’t want to play this up too much since the fossil fuel industry gets subsidies too — although at a far lower rate per Gigawatt of energy produced. But no one doubts the fossil fuel industry could survive without subsidies.