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White House: U.S. Oil & Gas Development “Essential” To Reducing Emissions

As world leaders meet at the U.N. Climate Summit this week, climate change and U.S. carbon emissions continue to make national and regional headlines. Yet some stories have failed to mention one key aspect of America’s ability to reduce its emissions: Increased oil and natural gas development from shale.

According to comments made today by top White House economic adviser Jason Furman, development of oil and natural gas from shale, paired with investments in renewables, has played an “essential” role in the reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, Furman highlighted that while the United States is in the “midst of an energy revolution,” it has simultaneously led the globe in emissions reductions. From his remarks:

“At the same time that we have undergone this energy boom, we have also seen a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2007 to 2013 — the largest absolute emissions reductions of any country in the world. While the recession was responsible for about half of these emissions reductions, the other half — which is still a large amount — is the result of the changing ways in which we produce and consume energy.”

Furman’s comments echoed recent remarks from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, who has stated on various occasions that “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.” McCarthy has also called natural gas a “game changer with our ability to really move forward with pollution reductions.”

Natural gas development has also provided support for renewable energy by providing clean-burning, base load power for other intermittent energy sources like wind and solar. As a report by the Texas Clean Energy Coalition found, natural gas and renewables “are complementary, not competing, resources.” That fact is only further supported by a recent report from the Energy Information Administration, which found that natural gas, solar and wind led power plant additions in the first half of 2014 – which is good news for renewable energy and natural gas generation alike.

More oil development here at home is also good news for the environment. As U.S. oil production reaches its highest level in more than 28 years, America has been able to reduce its oil imports to the lowest level since 1996. That means less oil imported from abroad and less energy utilized to transport that oil from its source country into the American market – not to mention while having a positive impact on the U.S. trade balance.

While climate change continues to make headlines this week, it is important to note the critical role of natural gas from shale in supporting significant carbon emission reductions. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported earlier this year, “as a result of the increased use of natural gas, CO2 emissions from U.S. fossil-fuel power plants were 23 percent lower in 2012 than they would have been” without that increase in natural gas use.

That is something worth remembering.

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