NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Good Fracking Story

September 19, 2012

Global warming alarmists are at it again, arguing that higher average temperatures and severe droughts are the worst they have been and a result of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. However, many of those alarmists would be surprised to learn that CO2 emissions are the lowest they've been in 20 years, says Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, and founder and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

The cause for this stems from the switch to reliance on natural gas for energy.

  • The United States used to generate only 20 percent of its energy from natural gas and over half from coal.
  • Today, coal and natural gas make up 32 percent of energy production.
  • Furthermore, natural gas emits 45 percent less carbon per energy unit.

The rise in the use of natural gas comes from technological advancements that have made hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, possible. Fracking has opened up untouched reserves of previously inaccessible shale gas.  Aside from some environmental concern, it is difficult to overstate the benefit of fracking.

  • Adjusted for inflation, gas has been the cheapest it has ever been in the past 35 years.
  • Furthermore, CO2 emissions have dropped 20 percent despite adding 57 million energy producers.
  • Overall, U.S. emissions have been reduced by 400 to 500 megatonnes a year, which is twice the total effect of the Kyoto Protocol on the rest of the world.

Many environmentalists incorrectly shift responsibility of the carbon reductions to the investment of alternative energy sources. Wind turbines in the United States reduce emissions by only one-tenth the amount natural gas does. The European Union, for example, has invested over $20 billion annually into solar and wind energy, but its per capita CO2 emission have fallen by less than half of what the United States has achieved.

The United States' investment in green technology has also yielded poor results. The low drop in emissions through wind power ends up costing taxpayers $3.3 billion annually, while the smaller reductions through biofuels and solar power cost $8.5 billion and $3 billion, respectively.

Fracking is not only cost-effective, but the benefits to the environment speak for themselves. Over 30 years of investment and technological innovation have yielded outstanding results and will continue to do so as producers tap into vast natural gas reserves.

Source: Bjørn Lomborg, "A Fracking Good Story," Project Syndicate, September 13, 2012.


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