Fracking Helps Save the Planet


Credit: Dreamstime Andrewmits

At least that's what people who are worried about the possibility of catastrophic man-made global warming should realize. From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically in recent years, in large part because the country is making more electricity with natural gas instead of coal.

Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is widely believed to contribute to global warming, have fallen 12% between 2005 and 2012 and are at their lowest level since 1994, according to a recent estimate by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department.

While other factors, including a sluggish U.S. economy and increasing energy efficiency, have contributed to the decline in carbon emissions from factories, automobiles and power plants, many experts believe the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation has been the biggest factor. Carbon-dioxide emissions account for nearly 84% of greenhouse-gas emissions, while methane—the main ingredient in natural gas—makes up 8.8%, according to a recent Environmental Protection Agency report.

Natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal when used to make electricity, though the calculation fails to take into account the release of methane from natural-gas wells and pipelines, which also contributes to climate change.

The methane issue is important since methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than is carbon, but emissions from natural gas production can be managed. For more background see my January column, "The Promised Land of Fracking," where I point out that rather than cheering the benefits of fracking, activists are instead booing

Environmental activists, who once hailed natural gas as the bridge fuel to the renewable energy future, have turned with a vengeance against it. Originally, activists who worried about man-made global warming produced by burning fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide favored fracking because burning natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide emitted by coal. However, local and national environmental groups have turned decisively against shale gas based on both not-in-my-backyard concerns and the fear that cheap natural gas undermines the economic case for solar and wind power.

Amusingly, the perpetual self-righteous climate change scolds in Europe, some of whom have banned fracking, are increasing their imports of good old American coal. As the Journal reports: 

As the U.S. has reduced its coal consumption, it has increased its coal exports to Europe, which rose 23% in 2012 from a year earlier, according to federal statistics. Gérard Mestrallet, chief executive of French power group GDF Suez SA, says that European utilities imported and burned that coal, raising carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants in Europe. He said as-yet unpublished figures for GDF will show an increase in emissions last year.

Other European utilities used more coal also, likely reversing a recent trend of carbon reductions. European carbon emissions fell 8% between 2005 and 2011, the latest year for which data are available. In February, the German environment ministry said it expected there was a 1.6% rise in greenhouse-gas emissions in Germany last year.

For the sake of the planet (and pocketbooks) here's hoping that other countries will soon join the fracking revolution and reduce the chances of significant problems from global warming.

NEXT: Amazon Crowdsourcing TV Pilot Selection

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Look, the left can no longer blame the Teabaggers for the bombing, so what’s next?

    You guessed it, global warming is to blame:

    Cuomo, bombing caused by climate change, derp!

    1. I don’t like or respect Cuomo, either, but that’s not exactly what he said, although what he did say wasn’t much smarter.

      1. It’s a good bet that clowns like Hyperion don’t really care about getting facts right as long as their comments reflect whatever half assed agenda is being pushed.

      2. No, it’s just that he’s lumping all of this together, climate change, gun violence, terrorism. The new norm! And only guys like me(Cuomo) can save you from it.

        1. I guess sarcasm is too difficult for Beenyballz.

  2. Remember “We can’t drill our way out of this” from just a few years back?

    1. I’ve been hearing that from TEAM DONKEY since Clinton mocked drilling in ANWR.

      Don’t expect a retraction just because they have been proven wrong.

      1. I really like the “It would take ten years before oil from ANWR would enter the market!!!”

        Which they have been using for over ten years.

        Personally I always liked this little story. Napoleon was riding in the countryside, and called for a messenger suddenly. He ordered that trees be planted along all the country roads, to shade his troops as they marched. The messenger said “But Your Highness, it will take 20 years for the trees to grow tall enough to shade your troops.”

        The Emperor replied: “Exactly right. Which is why you must get the message to start at once.”

        1. Oh, and a more local flavor was the crowding of Northern Virginia’s highways. So of course Tim Kaine wanted to do light rail, even though obviously what was needed was more fucking roads.

          One of the most annoying things about liberals is their bullshit kneejerk hipsterism. When the roads are crowded you don’t need light rail or people movers or increased tax credits for telecommuting. You just need more goddamn roads. Pour the fucking concrete.

        2. “I really like the “It would take ten years before oil from ANWR would enter the market!!!””
          But the market would see the effects instantly, and the lefties pretend that’s magic.

    2. For the sake of the planet (and pocketbooks) here’s hoping that other countries will soon join the fracking revolution and reduce the chances of significant problems from global warming.

      My pocketbook gets a double dip, since increased fracing (shibboleth alert: only opponents call it fracking) might increase my salary.

      1. Also: you’re welcome, Planet.

  3. “The World’s Largest Environmental Prize”
    Among the current winners of the Luddite awards:
    “Jonathan Deal led a successful campaign against fracking in South Africa to protect the Karoo, a semi-desert region treasured for its agriculture, beauty and wildlife.”

  4. The solution to gun violence is buy more guns! The solution to climate change is burn more hydrocarbons! I’m sensing a pattern.

    self-righteous climate change scolds

    You mean there are people more self-righteous than libertarians?

    Fracking is the most half-assed “solution” imaginable considering the scale of the problem, one obviously meant to keep entrenched energy industries and habits the status quo.

    1. Tony| 4.19.13 @ 12:29PM |#
      “The solution to gun violence is buy more guns! The solution to climate change is burn more hydrocarbons! I’m sensing a pattern.”

      I’m sensing badly hurt strawmen, shithead.

      1. Be gentle, it’s been a rough week for Tony.

        1. And if you all would just ignore it, you would make its week rougher still. Remember, folks, it feeds on your responses. If you ignore it, you hurt it more than any response ever could.

        2. Just wait until Obozocare costs his mommy more and she has to kick him out of the basement.

          1. He’ll just throw her off the cliff.

            1. I thought he would throw her from the train. Pubic transport train, of course, not an evil capitalist train, like in an Ayn Rand novel.

      2. Tony forgot this one:

        The solution to a spending problem is spend more!

        1. What spending problem? We have a jobs problem.

          1. So we should raise taxes on those jobs and increase the costs of health insurance.

    2. Why do you hate the poor? Why do you want granny to die in the cold and dark.

      Natural gas emits less pollutants and costs less. It’s a boon to the working class.

      PA has thousands of wells, and our drinking water is probably cleaner than yours.

      1. It’s not clear that there is a net benefit in emissions from NG use (which Ron somewhat mentions). Plus fracking comes with a bunch of whole new environmental concerns, which are of course being swept under the rug of industry propaganda. These are dirty fuels and the magical promises of making them clean, like fusion energy, are always just a couple decades away. We need to stop emitting greenhouse gases and start sucking them out of the atmosphere, not merely adding to them less quickly. That is really the only priority there is, and any cost is cheap compared to the alternative.

        1. It’s not clear that there is a net benefit in emissions from NG use

          Emissions have dropped to 1994 levels…can’t get more clear then that.

    3. F-

      That was weak, even for you.

    4. Awww, Tony, first you lose on gun control, and now you may have to live in a world where dirty proles (some of them Indian and Chinese!) are able to enjoy the same abundance as their betters such as yourself. And in a few years, the math dictates that your beloved social programs need major reforms.

      Your going to just end up a desiccated corpse from all the tears you’ll shed, aren’t you?

      1. Just make sure to collect those tears! Then the legacy of Tony will have proven worth for something. Monocle polish!

      2. You mean the ones we’re exporting coal to thanks to our increase in natural gas use?

        1. Er. We’re exporting coal not because we’re using less of it, but because Europe is buying more of it.

          I wonder why THAT is. Might be because of Germany shutting down it’s nuclear plants. As everyone predicted, shutting down nuclear didn’t suddenly cause everyone to give up refridgeration and live in a pre-industrial wind+solar economy. Instead they just burnt more coal.

          It would take a totalitarian dictatorship to impose the kind of lifestyle changes necessary to go to a pure-renewable energy economy.

          1. We’re exporting coal not because we’re using less of it

            We are using less of it.

    5. So how about building a bunch of nuclear plants, Tony.

      That would solve the problem, but sadly not require us to “change our lifestyles” which is you are your friends true goal.
      You aren’t interested in saving the planet, your interested in using climate change as a pretext for a big socialist experiment.

      1. I don’t want to change anyone’s lifestyle, I just don’t have a stick up my ass about small government, so I’m OK with the massive government allocation of resources that would be necessary to build a bunch of nuclear plants or other deployments of clean energy technology. Wait, you’re advocating for nuclear aren’t you…?

  5. Ron,

    It only saves the planet if you believe CO2 emissions are bad. Really Ron, you style are buying that religion?

    1. NG also has less Hg, S, and other junk than coal. Even if you aren’t worried about CO2 (and I’m not), NG is much cleaner than coal.

      1. Open coal mines with its run off have to be far worse for ground water then any airtight pipe going into the ground.

  6. North Dakota should change the law about flaring; currently, companies are allowed to do it for up to a year. Wasting more than a third of the methane released by fracking, for no other reason than because it’s “less profitable,” is stupid.…..akota-dark

    1. “Wasting more than a third of the methane released by fracking, for no other reason than because it’s “less profitable,” is stupid.”

      Uh, seemingly not.

    2. Yeah I’m going to assume NPR screwed that up somehow.

    3. There is no infrastructure to transport it currently, and won’t be until Obama starts letting some of the pipelines to be built.

      1. “There is no infrastructure to transport it currently, and won’t be until Obama starts letting some of the pipelines to be built.”

        So the gov’t will make it un-profitable and then pass a law requiring it to be used anyhow.
        And then, (step #3), call the result a MARKET FAILURE!

        1. I never disputed that as a possible scenario.

    4. You want to guess how much methane is released from an open coal mine?

      My guess it is a pretty big number compared to “flaring”.

  7. Fracking also helps the economy. The less money I’m spending on my heating costs, the more money I can spend buying various consumer goods, not to mention hookers and blow.

    I’m in PA, fracking capital of the East. My heating bill is about half of what it used to be. Suck it, environmental nutbars.

    1. Same here in UT. The areas were fracking is big are making bank off of the boom, too.

      1. Gas royalties in PA were $1 billion in 2012. That’s for northern and southwestern PA, rural areas that need the money and jobs.

        Plus the state got $140 million or so in impact fees. Our Game Commission was once teetering financially because of fewer hunters; now it’s rolling in clover since it leased gamelands to drilling.

        1. Nice. I’m not sure the exact figures since I live in another part of the state, but my brother-in-law who is a P.A. in the oil-rich east of the state says the people there are making money off of their land and working for the gas companies. It has been a huge boom to an already well developed oil area.

    2. I would be weary about the long term prices of natural gas. It is historically volatile.

      I have no faith in NG prices staying where they are. A fair amount of wells are operating at a loss or barely profitable levels. I would say we will likely see $7-$8/MMBTU in the next few years, especially if they can get liquid natural gas exports going.

      1. That means that for every cent increase in the natural gas price a few wells come on line again. That’ll tend to keep prices stable.

      2. Oh, I agree. (And get those exports flowing!)

        They’ll up production, too, so that would help keep prices reasonable.

      3. One could make a reasonable argument that the historical volatility of pricing can mostly be attributed to the fact that a lot of our gas came from offshore production. A hurricane would come through and knock those offline for a while. Supply is MUCH more stable in this post-fracing revolution world.

  8. Why do greens hate the planet?

    1. ‘Why do greens hate humans?’
      Has to do with religious bleefs; ‘pristine nature, corrupted by humans, etc’

      1. Seriously though. It’s not about the planet anymore. It’s about Team.
        Those natural gas companies are REPUBLICAN.

        1. +1

          The gun debate seems to have cleared up any doubt in my mind about this.

      2. Yeah, its a secular version of an old religious belief.

        Don’t try telling that to SoCons who earnestly corner you and talk about how environmentalists have elevated nature over god, like I once did. In one ear and out the other with that dumbass

  9. I would love to see somebody design a process to convert coal to oil on the cheap, as a way of producing transportation fuel. Totally rid ourselves of the need for ME oil.

    Unless somebody comes up with something as cheap, easily transportable, and energy dense as hydrocarbons, we will never stop burning them. People seem to forget how awful life can become without cheap, abundant energy.

    Tony, if you want to try and live strictly off of solar panels and wind mills, be my guest. I don’t think you realize the actual cost of using these intermittent, unreliable forms of electricity production.

    1. I think pretty much all of our oil comes from North America at this point.

    2. Carter did start a demonstration project to turn coal into NG. Huge waste of money.

    3. Tony, don’t forget to use only those solar panels and wind mills that were built using energy from solar panels and wind mills. Wanna keep it renewable, dontchaknow.

  10. Extremely OT, but this is, um, somewhat amusing: Coexist Bumper Sticker on Car Terrorists CarJacked

    1. You couldn’t find a single thread on the bomber manhunt to post that on?

  11. Cheap natural gas is a real threat to wind and hydro power industries. That makes it the enemy of the planet.

    They’re fracking under my property now. Well, they just finished drilling and will come back to frack later. Unfortunately for me, the price is so low and the amount is so abundant that I won’t be seeing any royalties for a while. They’ll just cap the well off and hold off until the price goes up.

    1. Makes no sense to drill and rig down only to rig back up to complete the well at a future date… must have rigs and crews sitting around with nothing to do.

  12. If you think Richard`s story is nice, , four weaks-ago my mom basically also made $4739 grafting a 20 hour week in their apartment and they’re best friend’s mom`s neighbour done this for 8-months and got a cheque for over $4739 part-time on their computer. the instructions from this site
    (Go to site and open “Home” for details)

  13. Cheap natural gas is a real threat to wind and hydro power industries.

    A real threat to hydro?

    The price would have to come down 10 fold.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.