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National Climate Report Touts Importance of Natural Gas and Shale

This week, the Obama administration released its National Climate Assessment, which covers a wide array of energy sources and topics. But there was one key takeaway that has largely been lost in the initial coverage of the report: Natural gas development – especially from shale – is critical to both the future of American energy and the nation’s ability to reduce its carbon footprint.

From the report:

  • “An increase in natural gas consumption could lead to a reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions compared to continued use of other fossil fuels.” (p. 269)
  • “After decades of increases, U.S. CO2 emissions from energy use (which account for 97% of total U.S. emissions) declined by around 9% between 2008 and 2012, largely due to a shift … to less CO2-intensive natural gas for electricity production.” (p. 13)
  • “Increased use of natural gas in the Midwest has the potential to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.” (p. 424)

Natural gas usage also carries certain air and public health benefits. As Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy stated in December 2013, “natural gas has been a game changer with our ability to really move forward with pollution reductions that have been very hard to get our arms around for many decades.”  This week’s report echoed EPA’s sentiment:

  • “Continued declines in sulfate aerosol cooling are projected for the future…Here, as with nitrogen oxide emissions, the environmental and socioeconomic tradeoffs {of natural gas} are important to recognize: lower sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions remove some climate cooling agents, but improve ecosystem health and save lives.” p.356

The assessment also notes that hydraulic fracturing has increased American energy supplies, bringing down the cost of energy for consumers across the country:

  • “Recent reductions in natural gas prices are largely due to advances in hydraulic fracturing, which is a drilling method used to retrieve deep reservoirs of natural gas.” (p. 269)
  • “The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the percentage of natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico shifted from 20% in 2005 to 7% in 2012. This is due to the development of shale gas production in other parts of the United States.” (p. 116)

Last month, EID explained how shale development is reducing CO2 emissions across the country, including a dramatic decline in emissions in just the past few years:

shale-co2-reduction

As University of California-Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller stated in December 2013,“Environmentalists who oppose the development of shale gas and fracking are making a tragic mistake.” This national report serves as another pivotal indicator that shale development is helping to reduce our nation’s carbon footprint while providing an abundant source of affordable, clean-burning energy for consumers. It’s past time for political activists who oppose this development to recognize the immense and tangible environmental benefits that increased natural gas production is providing for the nation.

3 Comments
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  • Tom Kadala
    Posted at 09:42h, 13 May Reply

    This article takes a very slanted view of natural gas benefits which although a seemingly better alternative to coal should not be treated as a policy end game. Natural gas development is still a major pollutant and emitter of CO2. If offered as a cheaper energy alternative, it’s demand will increase along with its eminent emissions.

    In my opinion policy makers should view the NG bonanza in the US as a temporary bridge for governments worldwide to subsidies the installation of renewable energy solutions (ie solar and wind). Funds should also flow toward scientific and application innovations. These innovations should not be limited to fuel types but should also include energy efficiency strategies such as smart cities, driverless transport, and my favorite, a comprehensive traffic strategy that will do away with the infamous ‘rush hours’.

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