The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Natural Gas: The Environment's Best Friend

greenshootenergy

The shale boom and the rise of gas are doing more to help the environment than all the green handwringing in the world. New estimates from the Energy Information Administration found that America’s carbon dioxide emissions dropped 12 percent from 2005 to 2012. Many attribute this drop to both the recession and the shift from coal to natural gas. WSJ:

“Everybody just figured that emissions were just going to continue to increase rapidly,” says Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and climate think tank based in Oakland, Calif. “Nobody was expecting the worst recession since the Great Depression, but also no one was really expecting this remarkable shift from coal to gas either.”

Natural gas releases roughly half the amount of carbon released by coal. Thanks to fracking and other technologies, which have allowed us to access more natural gas than ever before, the amount of electricity generated from gas increased 19 percent over the same period that emissions dropped by 12 percent.

A number of factors could derail this progress, ranging from natural gas becoming too expensive to a return to pre-recession levels of economic activity. But as things currently stand the shale boom is allowing US emissions to drop faster than in Europe, which is already burdened by heavy environmental regulation.

Fracking, not cap-and-trade, may be the surest route to sustainability. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

[Oil rig image and plant image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Published on April 19, 2013 5:00 pm
  • Andrew Allison

    The estimated decline in US emissions has been swamped by the increase in those from China and India, resulting in an 8.74% increase in atmospheric CO2 since 1997. Happily, the worry-worts were wrong and global temperature has been drifting downward since then.