In his article, "What's the Fracking Problem with Natural Gas," Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki comes clean on why he and other environmentalists hate fracking and the abundant and cheap natural gas it produces. Suzuki begins by citing some of the (minor) harms associated with fracking, but admits that "they don't pose the greatest threat from fracking." So what is the biggest threat? Suzuki declares:
The biggest issue is that it's just one more way to continue our destructive addiction to fossil fuels….
More than anything, continued and increasing investment in natural gas extraction and infrastructure will slow investment in, and transition to, renewable energy.
The chief reason that abundant natural gas will slow the transition to renewable energy? Because burning it to generate electricity is so much cheaper than deploying current versions of solar and wind power. How much cheaper? The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) calculated recently the levelized costs of 8 different technologies for generating electricity. Levelized costs take into account all capital, fuel, and financing costs. Here's what EPRI reported for 2015:
In 2015, solar will be 4 to 7 times and onshore wind as much as twice as expensive as coal and natural gas electricity generation. What about 2025?
EPRI projects that by 2025 the costs for wind generation will get to within spitting distance of coal and natural gas generation combined with carbon sequestration and nuclear power. Solar thermal remains just a tad more costly, and solar PV is twice to three times more expensive. Of course, disruptive technologies could come along and make renewables economically viable, but then the world would not need scolds like David Suzuki to argue for taxpayer subsidies to favored technologies and restrictions on emissions.
For more background go here for my article on the environmentalists' "Natural Gas Flip Flop."