Hail Shale
U.S. a Green Leader, Thanks to Fracking

No other developed country is making more progress in moving away from coal than the United States, according to a new report. While Germany is stuck burning more and more of the sooty source, America is setting coal aside in favor of much greener natural gas. Reuters reports:

“The United States has the largest challenge given the scale of its existing coal use, but is making the most positive progress of all the G7 nations,” [a report from the green think tank E3G] said. […]

[C]oal’s share of U.S. electricity generation had fallen to below 40 percent since 2009, it said, helped by a rise in the use of shale gas. Many planned coal-fired plants had been canceled.

Jake Schmidt, of the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a comment on the report that it was unusual for the United States to lead an international environmental ranking, but that big policy shifts were under way. “Just a few years ago we were looking at a vast number of new coal-fired plants,” he said.

The environmental benefits of the fracking boom is something the U.S. and its many shale producers don’t get nearly enough credit for. Through the first six months of this year, natural gas has provided more than 30 percent of America’s energy, far eclipsing coal’s 16 percent. Compare that to 2006, before the shale boom, when coal and natural gas each made up roughly 23 percent of our country’s energy mix.

Fracking has been the obvious catalyst behind this shift, as it has unleashed a wash of new natural gas supplies on the American market. That glut has depressed U.S. natural gas prices, making gas-fired power plants a more economical alternative to their much dirtier coal-fired cousins.

But that’s only part of the reason why shale gas is an eco-boon. Natural gas-fired power plants can come on and offline relatively quickly, and are generally less expensive than coal plants. As a result, gas plants are uniquely suited to pair with renewables like wind and solar, which can only produce energy intermittently and so must rely on a baseload source to meet demand consistently when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. In that respect, shale gas is our best option.

So the U.S. is taking a global green lead, and that’s thanks to a phenomenon that has inspired hand wringing and doomsaying by the modern environmental movement. Fracking is dethroning Old King Coal and shale gas is fracking green.

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