mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Frack to Save the Planet?

With the hopes for a comprehensive global carbon treaty all but crushed, American greens have largely moved on to a new environmental threat: fracking. Despite its potential to lower energy prices, provide jobs, and make America more energy independent, greens remain steadfastly opposed to the expansion of fracking, calling for a total ban on its use.

But perhaps the greens should put down their megaphones and protest signs for a minute to take another look at the data. 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.

Via Meadia doesn’t expect these facts to warm greens to fracking anytime soon, but in the meantime, the rest of us will enjoy our cheaper, greener energy. Frack away!

Features Icon
show comments
  • Jbird

    you write as if environmentalists care more about the environment then they do about controlling the way others live, not that they’d want to live that way themselves as they jet to air conditioned resort conference; but the little people, they should live that way.

  • nadine

    “Despite its potential to lower energy prices, provide jobs, and make America more energy independent, greens remain steadfastly opposed to the expansion of fracking, calling for a total ban on its use.”

    What do you mean, “Despite its potential”? The greens hate fracking for its potential! Today’s greens hate oil, hate development, hate cheap energy, and consider humanity itself a pollution on the face of Mother Gaia.

  • Corlyss

    “American greens have largely moved on to a new environmental threat: fracking.”

    I’m with Jbird. Environmentalism has nothing to do with “saving Gaia.” It has everything to do with achieving the ancient communist/socialist/leftist dream of eliminating first European and then American middle class prosperity that is not the result of government distributionist policies. The fact that capitalism has produced more prosperity for more people while communism and other wealth confiscation and redistributionist schemes have produced nothing but mass murdering tyrannies has been a constant source of embarrassment to the True Believers. Alas those failures have neither chastened them nor convinced them their ambitions were foolish from the start. The failures only increase their efforts to succeed. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, those True Believer burrowed into the environmental movements world wide. Sane democracies should stop making a place for these malevolent crack-pots at the political table.

  • Andrew Allison

    An admittedly rotten task, but somebody has to do it: enviro-Luddites, frack-off! We live in a carbon-based economy, and fracking offers the prospect of energy independence with environmental challenges beside which our dependence upon imported oil are negligible.

  • billy

    people who are so called “environmentalists” simply dont care about the environment except fot the monay!

  • Mark Michael

    Methane’s chemical formula is CH4 and when it burns fully, it produces 2 water molecules, 2 H2O and 1 CO2 molecule. As such, it produces much less CO2 for each “joule” of energy released than do other carbon-based fuels such as coal or oil, which have more carbon atoms.

    It also doesn’t have all of the toxic elements found in most coal. The list of heavy metals, sulfur, even uranium (burning coal in an electric utility plant sprays more radiation on the surrounding neighborhood than does a nuclear power plant, typically!) is pretty bad.

    Use of scrubbers has cut down on the pollution from coal-fired power plants in recent years, but it’s impossible to make burning coal anywhere near as clean as burning natural gas. (Our air quality is much better today than it was in the 1960s by all measures, actually. That’s both because of more scrubbers and lots of steel mills and other factories having closed down that were major polluters since then.)

    I, of course, think the whole runaway global warming craze is one of the greatest, most expensive junk science fiascos in the history of mankind. I’ve read that as much of $70 billion has been spent on pro-AGW related research over the last 25 years. Who really knows, since so many scientific projects claim they’re working on AGW aspects just to get funding. (At least I HOPE lots claim that – and then do other actually useful research! Thinking of all of those tax dollars being wasted makes one sick to one’s stomach otherwise.)

  • Ken Green

    Jbird has this exactly right: while a small sliver of the environmental movement is anthropocentric, most of the movement is inherently misanthropic: they view people as a cancer on the earth – a cancer that is to be controlled, kept from spreading, and, preferably eradicated.

    We have seen time and again where supposedly “environmental” actions have had severe negative impacts on the environment, but the “environmentalists” rarely worry about this if it achieves the primary objective, which is the restriction of human flourishing.

  • ilma630

    Adding to Andrew A: What do the greens think powered the forges that made the ironmongery for the original windmills? Also, what are trees, if not a lower density carbon based substance? We’ve always been a carbon burning species, from the time fire was first discovered.

    It can only be said that the Greens need something to complain about to justify their existence and to justify their own warped idea of utopia. Why don’t they get on and deal with energy poverty, developing 3rd world country industry rather than harping on about their precious ‘Gaia’. They always see the world in black & white rather than in the multiple colours and shades it really is.

    It seems they want millions to remain in poverty, being poisoned by toxic fumes from indoor cooking on low grade fuels, e.g. dung, than to have a cheap and clean electricity and gas supply that can free them from that poverty, vastly improve their health and so control their populations, and develop viable small-medium sized businesses and industries.

    The other ‘fact’ that the Greens should understand, is that when looking at CO2 emissions, the developed/industrialised regions actually emit LESS CO2, according to a recent Japanese study, so an added reason to ‘dash for gas’ to get their economies going.

  • Mark Shapiro

    A few predictions, FWIW:

    The global energy economy will decarbonize faster than predicted, using efficiency, renewables, plus a little good old-fashioned conservation;

    Decarbonizing quickly is good because of the externalities, some of which are mentioned above;

    In the next 3-10 years or so, most of you will come to value this decarbonizing, as the externalities grow and the costs to life and property become more visible. (A daring prediction!)

    Casting fewer aspersions on “greens” (goodness — such benighted people!) is largely irrelevant.

  • Silly Wabbit

    Longtime reader, first time poster.

    I must say that I believe the author is not entirely familiar with rather drastic international disparities in both per-capita and total Co2 emissions.

    The US, of all advanced nations with a large population, is a leader in both these categories (Qatar, UAE and some other nations are higher per capita).

    To say that the US has outperformed any major European countries in either total or per capita Co2 emissions is simply a misreading of the data. Emissions in the US have stabilized and even trended downward in the last few years. Right now the US is about 17-18 metric tonnes of CO2 per capita and not long ago we were running around 19-20. However, this is nearly double the European average and about 3x that of Sweden or the most conservative European countries.

    Here is some data. If you don’t like wiki you can get the raw data from the world bank:

    Here are the figures for total Co2. China overtook the US as #1 a few years ago:

    With all respect due it is inaccurate to conclude that: “Yet the numbers are out, and America has actually performed better than its carbon-trading peers”.

    Also, the author seems to be implying that there is a trade off between cap and trade and natural gas production; I don’t understand why he believes that is the case. There are likely nations that produce and use natural case and also have emissions trading policies. Its rather odd to assume that somehow cap and trade makes natural gas production impossible or something.

    All in all keep up the good work. I just thought maybe this piece needed some work.

  • Silly Wabbit

    “natural case”= “natural gas”.

    All Apologies for my error.

  • Loretta Huston

    Haven’t been able to blog for some time now, been way too busy. But as always I get hooked into these controversies. So yes, let’s keep the fires going. Sparks are a flyin, perhaps we can sustain a bit longer with all of our heated debates. Who needs labor intensive subsidized mined fuels, when we have an abundance of fracked mind fuels amongst ourselves? As always, we are glutted with data & starved for wisdom…. we’ve gone waaaay far past any sense of “balance.” The collision of environmental, economical & ethical issues are at the peril of our insatiable rational/irrational arguments. We shall live out this myth of the “American Dream” for everything has become much too BIG and TOXIC. But, that’s our curse for humans are conditional and unfortunately prone to “self destructive” behavior and actions. How much longer can we “sustain” this growing “dependency” on “money and exploited resources” to feed our growing needs to survive as 7 Billion plus people competing with all life on our overly abused planet? At this point in the journey, it looks like we will frack our way out of here.

  • Murf

    So I thought what most people wanted was the basics for sustaining life, which means running water! Towns that have introduced fracking into their lives, can no longer drink the water that comes out of there sewers because it is so toxic and they can light it on fire as it comes out of their faucets. I would never say I’m a green, I just did a lot of research! And Fracking is not bad for the environment it is bad for your health.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service