By Paolo von Schirach
April 21, 2013
WASHINGTON – Guess what, uncouth America, the last refuge of the “let’s-fry-the-planet-who-cares-anyway” shameless oil companies and mindless gas guzzling consumers has done something totally out of character: it has actually reduced CO2 emissions in the last few years. And, what is more incredible, the evil carbon energy companies are behind all this.
How did this happen?
How did all this happen? Well, it is all rather simple. There was no anti global warming fervor at the root of this radical shift. This was not the righteous outcome of a fierce regulatory battle pitting the noble soldiers of the Environmental Protection Agency, reinforced by the Sierra Club volunteers, against the mean and rotten mercenaries hired by diabolical Exxon/Chevron/BP and the other evil doers.
Cheap natural gas
No, in a rather prosaic fashion, this was all about US abundant, cheap (and cleaner) US natural gas progressively replacing more expensive (and dirty) coal as the most cost effective fuel for power plants. It is a well known fact that America has huge coal deposits. For this reason coal became the most used fuel for electric power generation. But now, thanks to new extractive technologies, we have plenty of ultra cheap natural gas in America, much of it located in the North East, (notably in the Marcellus Shale: stretching from Ohio, through most of Pennsylvania all the way to New York state ), and therefore very close to tens of millions of customers. Looking at the numbers –natural gas cheaper than coal– utilities did the sensible thing: they are phasing out coal and stepping up the use of natural gas.
And the results are truly remarkable. In 2007 48.5% of all US electricity was generated by coal. In 2012 the percentage was down to only 37.4%. The added bonus of the gigantic switch is that this natural gas progressively replacing coal is the cleanest among carbon energy sources. Not emission free, mind you; but creating much lower emissions than dirty coal. And so, the evil energy companies, in pursuit of their for ever selfish economic interests, triggered a major fall in US green house gases emissions.
Nothing good comes from carbon
Good news? “No, no, no”, the chorus of all good environmentalists will recite. As even school children know, all this new natural gas is the result of “hydrofracking”, yet another devilish invention concocted by the evil doers. It is established that hydrofracking contaminates precious water reserves, that it pollutes everything. This process to extract natural gas from shale caused earthquakes. It releases noxious methane. To put it simply: natural gas coming via hydrofracking is yet another manifestation of stupid and destructive human greed. It is yet another “poisoned fruit of the poisoned tree”.
I suppose for them it is much better to keep having higher CO2 emissions due to heavy reliance on dirty coal. Somehow I guess that if you live next to a power plant burning low emission natural gas as opposed to dirty coal you may have a different point of view. It would be nice if this could be articulated.