*UPDATE* Oil and Gas Industry Spending More on Emissions Reductions than Feds

UPDATE (9/26/2013; 2:02 PM ET): Today, the U.S. State Department released a draft of its 2014 Climate Change Report – the sixth report of its kind.  The report details various measures, actions, and policy initiatives in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One major finding? The increased use of natural gas – specifically produced from shale – is a “major contributor to the decline in U.S. GHG emissions.”

More from the State Department’s report:

A major contributor to the decline in U.S. GHG emissions has been the displacement of coal with natural gas that is extracted from shale rock formations through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. The production of ‘shale gas’ has grown rapidly in recent years. In 1996, U.S. shale gas wells produced 0.3 trillion cubic feet (8.5 billion cubic meters) of natural gas, representing 1.6 percent of U.S. gas production. By 2011, production of shale gas had increased to 8.5 trillion cubic feet (2414 billion cubic meters) of natural gas, 30 percent of U.S. gas production. The extraction and use of shale gas are projected to continue to grow during the next several years.” (p.2)

Not only is the oil and natural gas industry investing heavily in reducing CO2 emissions, the increased use of natural gas is having a “major” impact on our national emissions profile, according to the U.S. State Department. It’s just too bad the same agency saw fit to promote the movie Gasland a few years ago.

Original Post 9/12/13–

A new study from the American Petroleum Institute, completed by T2 and Associates, calculates the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has invested $81 billion to lower greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 through 2012. Add in industry’s investment in shale development – a process providing an abundant supply of clean burning natural gas – and industry’s total investment reaches $165.4 billion. These numbers, in addition to investments made by U.S.-based private industries and the federal government, are helping the United States decrease its carbon footprint while increasing the nation’s supply of affordable domestic energy.

Also of note: the oil and gas industry (since 2000) has actually invested more in emissions reducing technologies than has the federal government.

As the study highlights, investments made by the oil and natural gas industry have extended throughout the energy economy, including billions of dollars invested in renewable technologies – again highlighting that renewables and natural gas are friends, not foes.

“During the study period, the oil and natural gas industry was responsible for approximately $11.4 billion, or one out of every six dollars, invested in non-hydrocarbon resources, including wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass technologies. The industry also has adopted methods to reuse excess heat from refineries and permanently sequester CO2. From 2011 to 2012, these and other investments allowed the U.S. oil and natural gas industry to directly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 53.6 million metric tons of CO2 – equal to taking 10.8 million cars off of the road.” (link)

Meanwhile, the industry’s strong investment in shale development is greatly enhancing America’s carbon reduction efforts.  As natural gas use has increased – thanks to the onset of new supply brought about by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling – carbon emissions have decreased:

“The introduction of new, efficient gas-fired capacity and a recent decline in the price of natural gas has helped boost natural gas’ share from 14 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2012. … From 2000 through 2012, the overall carbon dioxide intensity of the U.S. economy—measured as metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) emitted per million dollars of gross domestic product (GDP) — improved by more than 18 percent or 1.4 percent per year, as shown in Figure 16.” (link)

While there are other factors that have contributed to these emission reductions, the important role of natural gas in this decline cannot be overlooked. As countless state and federal officials have reiterated, natural gas is a key element to reducing emissions and promoting clean energy. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated in August 2013, “responsible development of natural gas is an important part of our work to curb climate change and support a robust clean energy market at home.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) agrees. In June, an IEA report stated the drop in U.S. emissions was due in large part to increased natural gas use in the power sector, calling it a “bright spot” in the global energy outlook.  As Russell Gold of the Wall Street Journal explains:

“The decline in U.S. emissions from 2005 to 2012—706 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—puts the U.S. a long way toward achieving the 17% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from 2005 the Obama administration set as its 2020 goal a few years ago.”

That’s a fact President Obama reiterated in his Climate Action Plan, touting natural gas as a key part of our clean energy future:

“In fact, last year, carbon emissions from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades. At the same time, while there is more work to do, we are more energy secure than at any time in recent history. In 2012, America’s net oil imports fell to the lowest level in 20 years and we have become the world’s leading producer of natural gas – the cleanest-burning fossil fuel.”

“Burning natural gas is about one-half as carbon-intensive as coal, which can make it a critical ‘bridge fuel’ for many countries as the world transitions to even cleaner sources of energy.”

What’s clear is that the oil and natural gas industry is helping to reduce our carbon footprint while also promoting the increased development of affordable energy supplies. Simply put, the growth of U.S. oil and gas development is not only about economic gain, but also about real environmental benefits.

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