Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Economist Writes About "Fracking Good News" Or America's Slashed Carbon Emissions

More and more influential journals and organizations are noticing that shale gas has caused US carbon emissions to fall substantially.  Last week it was the International Energy Agency, estimating US emissions had fallen 450 million tons or 1.5 times all the emissions from Pennsylvania and about 1.5% of world emissions.  All largely because shale gas crashed the price of gas and made it competitive with coal.

Yesterday, in its "Fracking Good News" article, the Economist magazine takes note of the cheaper energy and lower emissions made possible by shale gas.  See

The Economist notes that, while carbon emissions are falling in the US, coal is enjoying growth in Europe. Why? Unlike in the USA, European natural gas is expensive, and coal is much cheaper than gas. The Economist even states that emissions may begin rising in Europe as a result.

That would be truly extraordinary, since Europe is in a depression or recession, with massive economic contraction in large sections of it, and a rising risk that the Euro itself could dissolve.

Meanwhile in the USA, the economy has been growing since July 1, 2009, millions of jobs have been created, and unemployment has been falling. Moreover, US energy related carbon emissions will fall another 150 million tons in 2012.  Again thanks primarily to shale gas making natural gas cost competitive with coal in the USA.

Much is different across the Atlantic.  The Economist story is well worth reading.


  1. Hi John! I just discovered your blog today and am thrilled to find such a good source of information.

    I've just started researching the debate over fracking vs. coal, so your site is helpful. One question I have is if the recent numbers showing decreased US GHG emissions due to shale also includes analyses of methane released at wells. Or does it just compare CO2 produced by actual burning?

    This is all a lot of information to process but it seems like overall you're saying 1) anti-fracking people overestimate methane leakage, 2) fracking does have potential problems with the chemicals pumped into the earth but technology exists to mitigate this? and 3) better regulations and industry practices would make fracking an undeniably better alternative to coal.

    I've got to keep reading to understand it all better. Thanks so much for the effort you put into this blog!

    1. Ethan:
      Welcome to the blog. I would recommend reading the postings about Prof Howarth and the 5 studies debunking his April 2011 study on the issue of methane migration.

      With the possible exception of Pavillion Wyoming, fracking fluids have never returned from depth to contaminate water. Fracking was done in Pavillion within a few hundred feet of the aquifer, an irresponsible practice.
      Gas production is not in the top 10 causes of water pollution in PA.

  2. Concerned ScientistMay 31, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    Ethan, I'll take a shot at your questions:

    Shale gas is already vastly superior to coal from an environmental perspective. Not only does it emit fewer GHGs but it also emits a tiny fraction of the mercury,SO2 and particulate matter. This is especially true when comparing it to older coal plants which is what gas is mainly displacing. Fracking of shale gas reservoirs itself does not contaminate groundwater. If the chemicals spill on the surface this could cause a problem but that is rare. Better regulations will improve matters ever further but shale gas is already vastly superior. Coal is also much worse for water pollution than shale gas. See the archives of this blog for more.

    Methane leakage appears to be a pretty serious problem where companies are producing oil and natural gas is a by-product. When you see vapors coming out of a tank that is what is going on. This is where the greatest improvements can be made. In areas where dry gas is being produced with no oil or natural gas liquids this is much less of an issue. In these cases the whole point of the operation is to produce gas. But it could always be better. Fight for close regulation but don't fight shale gas. It's the best environmental news we've had in many years.