Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Al Gore Tweets To Ban Fracking: More Carbon Pollution Would Be The Result

Al Gore is wrong about a key energy and climate change issue.  I know that won't surprise all of my readers, while others will insist Gore is not wrong at all.

Al Gore tweeted last night to support Vermont's ban of hydraulic fracturing. http://t.co/42fwSUFw. Gore's embrace of Vermont matters, as he has the respect of millions, including me.  Those thinking otherwise misjudge our diverse nation.

But, if his position wins the day, Gore would unintentionally increase carbon pollution, over the next 20 years, and would reverse the collapse in coal's electricity market share.  Indeed, Al Gore will find support for his proposal to ban fracking in some parts of coal country.

Beyond causing more pollution and not less, banning hydraulic fracturing would also bring more hardship for Americans straining to pay bills and looking for jobs. To the affluent, energy savings matter not much.

But to Pennsylvanians at or below the median income of $49,000 before taxes, $1,450 matters a lot.  And shale gas has saved many Americans, including tens of millions of poor Americans, $1,450 per year in lower natural gas heating and electricity bills, savings that would not have happened and would be lost, if all states took the path walked by Vermont and urged by Gore.

Gore's anti-fracking tweet comes, just when massive displacement of coal by gas has played a key role in rolling back US carbon emissions to 1998 or before levels.  EIA projects that US energy related carbon emissions will decline another 2.9% in 2012, after declining significantly in 2011, and for 4 of the last 5 years.  www.johnhanger.blogspot.com/2012/05/eia-latest-report-shows-coal-hits-new.html.

Coal generation declined from 52% of electricity generation in 2000 to 48% in 2008 and then collapsed to a forecasted 36% in 2012.  The collapse in coal generation and the resulting significant declines in carbon emissions both result from the shale gas boom that took off in 2008.

Enormous new gas supplies from shale resources caused plummeting natural gas prices that stopped a rush to build 150 new coal plants, pushed other coal plants to retire, and spurred massive switching from coal generation to gas.  In those ways, shale gas has been instrumental in avoiding annually 1 billion tons of carbon.  johnhanger.blogspot.com/2012/05/truth-some-environmentalists-dare-not.html.

Exhibit A for how powerfully low natural gas prices is causing massive switching from coal to gas is Southern Company, until recently a huge consumer of coal.  It has cut its coal generation from 70% to about 33%, all because natural gas now is a cheaper way to generate electricity than burning coal.

While US has embraced shale gas and seen its energy related emissions plummet, Europe has yet to do so and has recently burnt more coal.  China is just beginning to develop shale gas but still gets about 70% of its total energy from coal.  Poland generates 93% of its electricity from coal.  The opportunity to substitute gas for coal exists around the world.

But what about renewable energy and the impact of gas on it?  The boom in shale gas in the USA coincides, just since 2008, with a doubling of wind energy just and an 8-fold increase in solar that saw nearly 2,000 megawatts installed just in 2011.  Globally investment in renewable energy power plants exceeded investment in all fossil fuel plants during 2011.

Declining prices for renewable energy and supportive public policies around the world are insuring a global renewable boom.  Moreover, as Governor Brown of California says, by lowering overall energy costs, more affordable natural gas creates more political will to support renewable energy.

Hard economic times make addressing climate and boosting renewable energy more difficult.  The natural gas boom is helping to make climate action possible in two, key ways.  It is displacing higher carbon coal and gas and also creating more economic opportunity and less hardship, thereby building will to face inconvenient climate truths, including that fracking will avoid 1 billion tons of carbon this year.


  1. Gore's comments have to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to maintain relevance. I've never taken him for a dumb guy, but that statement reeks of stupidity. Or bad politics, one or the other.

    Were the country to ban hydraulic fracturing, it would in effect ban most if not all drilling. Aside from the almost instantaneous doubling of the price of crude on the news of the ban, it would most likely double several more times after the flush production from ongoing drilling dwindles and production falls sharply. There would be rampant inflation, food shortages, brownouts, massive unemployment, people freezing to death in the winter and and dying of heat stroke in the summer. Farmers wouldn't be able to afford by their nat gas based fertilizer, run their tractors, or to ship their food to market. Thousands would starve to death.

    The opponents of fracing and oil/gas seem to forget just how lopsided the tradeoff is. Oil and gas are the tie that binds our society together. And while I agree that being so tied to two commodities is not in the nation's best interest, cutting off our collective noses isn't going to solve that problem.

    I encourage those who are proposing to ban fracing to lead by example and try living for a few months while boycotting all things petroleum derived.

    1. I see his comments very transparently. As the old saying goes, "follow the money". He is heavily invested in renewables and therefore clearly sees gas as a threat because it is much cleaner than traditional fuels, but more cost-effective than the technologies in which he has invested.

      As even the link points out, this ban in Vermont is symbolic since there isn't much interest in whatever shale formations may exist beneath the state.

  2. And another group of folks go on vents and water supplied by the gas company....maybe some people think that matters...the price we pay? Meanwhile the gas wells and compressor stations spew their gas into our air..spill, drill, spew. Eventually all this will catch up with the greatness of gas and then we will shake our heads and say "how did this happen?"...that stamp of approval you wield will not be forgotten.

    1. Concerned ScientistMay 22, 2012 at 12:11 PM

      Yoko - You share the same thing every time you post on this blog. I can see that you are very unhappy and that you blame John Hanger in part for your plight. But I struggle to understand where you are coming from sometimes. I have some questions for you that might help me understand your position:

      Do you live in Dimock?
      Did you lease your land to Cabot?
      Are you getting royalty checks?
      Was your water contaminated with methane?
      Did you take the settlement for double the value of your property? If not, why not?
      Do you currently have a lawsuit going with Cabot?
      What is keeping you from moving if you are this unhappy?

    2. Gas is not perfect or great. But it is less polluting than coal and oil that provide about 53% of the USA's total energy. The real world is full of the imperfect.

    3. And you concerned scientist have taken the pledge of allegience to the Oil and Gas Nation..yes I live in Dimock and yes I have had methane exceed even DEP's ever changing standards of acceptance, yes I am unhappy with John Hanger and no I am not leaving-I put every penny I had from 32 years of teaching school into this house and no I did not take the DIRTY DEAL CABOT and JOHN HANGER put together behind closed doors...any more questions Concerned??? Oh, least I not forget- I had ethylene glycol surge through my water 2 years ago(so did 2 neighbors) and it was the gas companies own lab that told me not to shower in the water BECAUSE it would defat my skin!

    4. I forgot yes I did lease- manipulated, lied to, by the landman that preceeded the much better behaved gas company Cabot- you have no idea for sure what deceit, arrogance and negligence took place here so I suggest you learn a bit more-more than willing to help. In fact, intend to spent the next decade of my life exposing the people who aided and abetted this criminal act of aggression...

    5. The "dirty deal" that Yoko mentions was an order between DEP and Cabot that required Cabot to pay $4.1 million to 18 families for methane migration, an average of $201,000 per family. Cabot also was fined--again--in that order. The order specifically did not include other parties and litigation that they are bringing. This compensation and fine is by far the largest ever assessed by a regulatory agency against a drilling company.

    6. Concerned ScientistMay 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM


      If you don't mind I have a few more questions

      Why do you see this as a dirty deal? You could still have sued.

      I have never heard about a glycol surge. how long after the wells were completed did this surge occur?

      What did the DEP say about the glycol surge?

    7. Concerned ScientistMay 24, 2012 at 9:03 AM


      How do you view it as a criminal act of aggression?

  3. Concerned ScientistMay 22, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Absolutely right John. It's really embarrassing. People who know fracking is not what it is portrayed to be by the media and environmental groups are now going to be questioning the science around global warming more intensely. I have been convinced by the science on climate change but I am now starting to wonder how many "peer-reviewed" papers on climate change are of the quality of the Myers, Howarth et al and Duke papers. Gore is undercutting his own message.

  4. Victoria,

    The only thing that will catch up with anyone will be the rampant embarrassment among environmentalists who are choosing to ignore the stunning inequity between the positive and negative environmental impacts of increased natural gas usage and are lobbying for it to be banned.

    Real environmentalists are out there right now, working to strengthen oversight to ensure that gas drilling is done correctly to maximize its benefit, not out posing with well intentioned but alarmingly misinformed celebrities pushing a narrative that will attract cameras, but not any sort of serious legislative consideration.