The environmental benefits of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are causing a split in the global green movement, according to an article published Wednesday in the progressive magazine Mother Jones.
Anti-fracking environmentalists, led by 350.org, Greenpeace and The Sierra Club, claim that natural gas is actually accelerating global warming more than coal due to methane emissions, even if it does cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. These activists heavily doubt the official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures on methane leaks, largely because of an article published by Bill McKibben, the leader of 350.org.
Pro-fracking environmentalists, led by The Breakthrough Institute, point out that McKibben misrepresented the scientific research on methane emissions to attack fracking. These environmentalists point out that a study published in the journal Science in March blames agricultural practices, not oil and natural gas, for increasing methane emissions. The same study points out that the American greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming are declining largely due to fracking.
The split in the environmental movement has led to a green civil war over proposed EPA regulations intended to lower methane emissions from fracking. These regulations, however, would only lower the temperature by 0.0047 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, according to the EPA’s own data.
Since anti-fracking environmentalists believe EPA is underestimating methane emissions from fracking, the regulations would be far more effective than the EPA admits. Pro-fracking environmentalists believe that the regulations would make fracking less popular, causing CO2 emissions to increase — which would more than offset any decrease in methane emissions.
A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration attributes falling CO2 emissions to “decreased use of coal and the increased use of natural gas for electricity generation.” Natural gas emits about half the CO2 of coal power and is out-competing coal in many locations due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The EIA estimates that roughly 68 percent of the falling CO2 emissions are due to the switch from coal to natural gas.
Even the EPA has noted that rising natural gas use is responsible for falling greenhouse gas emissions, saying in an April report “a decrease in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed to generate electricity has occurred due to…increased natural gas consumption and other generation sources.”
Studies show that fracking for natural gas is responsible for almost 20 percent of the decline in CO2 emissions, while solar power is responsible for a mere 1 percent of the decline. For every ton of CO2 cut by solar power, fracking cut 13 tons.
The EPA’s own data shows that methane emissions have declined as fracking increased natural gas production, but the environmental agency still wants to regulate methane to reduce global warming.
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