Energy

Happy Earth Day, Enviros — Emissions Are Dropping As Natural Gas Stays Top Dog

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Anti-fracking activists, who worry about climate change on Earth Day, should remember the explosion in natural gas production is helping to reduce the emissions some believe are causing global warming.

Carbon dioxide emissions have declined more than 13 percent between 2005 and 2016, when natural gas began toppling other fossil fuels as the top form of energy, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. EPA data also show other pollutants have dropped during that time-span.

Natural gas is largely responsible for the aforementioned reductions, the EIA and International Energy Agency (IEA) argue.

“The role that natural gas can play in the future of global energy is inextricably linked to its ability to help address environmental problems,” the IEA noted in its 2017 World Energy Outlook. “With concerns about air quality and climate change looming large, natural gas offers many potential benefits if it displaces more polluting fuels.”

United States greenhouse gas emissions, meanwhile, have dropped by 1,022 million tons, putting them significantly lower than their peak in 2007. Carbon emissions have also dropped sharply in 47 states and Washington, D.C. The trend was especially pronounced in states that moved from coal to natural gas.

Fracking for natural gas is responsible for almost 20 percent of the decline in Carbon emissions, while solar power is responsible for a mere one percent of the decline, studies show. For every ton of CO2 solar power reduced, fracking cut 13 tons. Prominent environmentalists continue to crusade against hydraulic fracturing, even as data shows natural gas leads to reduced emissions contributing to climate change.

Anti-oil journalist Bill McKibben, for one, attacked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign for not doing enough to prevent global warming. He also repeatedly criticized her for supporting nuclear power and not banning fracking. McKibben’s recriminations caused Clinton to repeatedly flip-flop on energy issues before eventually winning the Democratic nomination.

McKibben, billionaire Tom Steyer and several other influential groups worked to change the Democratic National Committee’s platform in 2016 to include a moratorium on fracking, but the drafting committee spiked his proposals. McKibben’s supporters in the October 2016 Democratic National Convention’s audience began yelling, “shame on you” and “shame,” at the committee members after the proposal was nixed.

Natural gas production contributes to higher levels of methane emissions, activists argue. Yet technological advancements are causing emissions to plateau, recent reports show. Methane emissions in Texas’ biggest oil and gas-producing counties cratered between 2011 and 2016, according to a Texans for Energy report, which promotes natural gas production.

Emissions dropped over 211,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) during that five-year period among the state’s natural gas-producing counties. Similar reduction levels were noted among the 10 largest oil-producing counties.

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