Scientists found that American carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell again for the third straight year because of hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — and not environmental regulations, according to new data.
Early projections from researchers at the Global Carbon Project found that global emissions will only rise by about 0.2 percent relative to last year, largely because U.S. CO2 emissions declined by 2.6 percent in 2015 and are expected to fall an additional 1.7 percent this year. This dramatic shift can be mostly attributed to fracking.
America’s CO2 emissions have fallen by 12 percent since their high in 2005. Fracking is the primary reason for the decline in American CO2 emissions, and not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to reports published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). One of these reports 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 already cheaper than coal in many locations due to fracking. The EIA estimates roughly 68 percent of the falling CO2 emissions are due to the switch from coal to natural gas.
Fracking has been good for the planet by sharply reducing CO2 emissions, according to President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz .
“The increased production of oil and natural gas in the United States has, obviously, been a major story in terms of our economy, and also our environment,” Moniz said at an event in Seattle. “The natural gas boom, in particular, has led to the displacement of high-carbon coal with low-carbon natural gas producing fewer [carbon dioxide] emissions.”
Even the EPA notes 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.”
Fracking cut CO2 emissions more than solar or wind power, according to a study published last November by the Manhattan Institute. The study shows solar power is responsible for 1 percent of the decline in American CO2 emissions, while natural gas is responsible for nearly 20 percent. For every ton of CO2 cut by solar power, fracking cuts 13 tons.
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