Fracking: A Weapon Against Global Warming

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial issue to say the least. Opponents fear ecological damage and advocates point to energy independence and economic benefits. One often overlooked benefit of fracking is the increased use of natural gas. Natural gas when burned emits far less CO2 than oil, which is very helpful in the fight against global warming. AEI has an interesting study on natural gas production:

The chart above shows the Department of Energy’s estimates of CO2 emissions per capitafrom 1973 to 2040.  Total energy-related carbon emissions are expected to fall to a 20-year low this year, and on a per-capita basis will be the lowest since at least 1973 when the Department of Energy’s data begins.  From the current level of 17 tons per capita, we can expect CO2 emissions per capita to fall to 14 tons per capita in 2040, a 25.2% decrease.  One of the largest contributing factors in the reduction of CO2 emissions is the switch from coal to gas for electricity generation and the switch from fuel oil to natural gas as a fuel source for heating homes and commercial buildings.

In my opinion, global warming concerns trump the environmental risks of fracking, plain and simple. Even if water tables are polluted (the risk of which has not been established), isn’t water filtration a lesser worry than global climate change?

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5 Responses to Fracking: A Weapon Against Global Warming

  1. joanitaska says:

    But methane causes 25% more Global warming than does CO2 emissions and the gas wells and the pipelines (Do you know how many pipelines this fracking will involve? Come to PA and see.) leak methane into the atmosphere like a sieve.

    • Thank you very much for your comment. This article was doubly interesting as the study was done in Denver where I live. As an aside, I grew up in Youngstown, Oh, which experienced man made earthquakes from fracking.

      The reason for my support is a ‘lesser of evils’ reasoning. If fracking is shown to release so much methane that its affects against global warming are negated it will no longer have my support.

      This is a dynamic issue with new evidence coming out all the time. I’ll be writing more about this, so I hope you’ll check out my blog again. My goal is to foster intelligent discussion like this one. I sometimes will post things I do not agree with just because the argument is well formed. I also try to post the best arguments against my own opinions.

      Thanks again,


  2. Pingback: On Fracking… | petebrunelli

  3. petebrunelli says:

    Very complicated issue. Due to the lack of action over the past twenty years, we are backed into a corner where we (USA) are only now looking at a transitional fossil fuel program based around shale gas. The situation will be much worse in 20 more years if we don’t use this next period to develop large-scale renewable energy infrastructure. The simple model is that a tax on fossil fuels would go toward R&D, manufacturing and deployment of renewables. But these programs have, to date, been doomed because the corporations that are most likely to face the tax have the biggest fleet of lobbyists and the deepest pockets and view renewables programs as “funding their competition”.

    As for fracking concerns, they are real, and the potential for widespread aquifer damage is real, but since the current state of fracking regulations don’t require any real studies and don’t contain any contract-tight language on responsibility for damages, even a small problem could be a huge problem. As well, “filtering” is not an option when your aquifer gets loaded with benzene. The risks are completely passed down to the consumer. Fixing that would be a major piece of relief against fracking opposition. That said, there are environmental concerns/impacts with every type of fuel, even if those concerns are back in the extraction phase (those solar panels don’t come without a huge environmental impact, and exponentially more for nuclear fuels). One concern that is coming up in states like Connecticut, where they are moving on a shale-gas heavy energy policy, is that the Federal courts have failed to take a Federal approach to environmental pollution from fossil fuel extraction or combustion. The current example is the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) which was intended to use protect “downwind” states from the pollution generated “upwind”, primarily by Ohio Valley coal burners. The attempt to fix that rule and make it actually work, called CSAPR, was reversed by one of the most bizarre decisions in modern US environmental case law (EME Homer…). ergo, If a state that uses shale gas can’t get leverage over bad environmental practices in states that produce shale gas, then we have the next-gen cycle of that same battle. The same concern applies for renewables funding or any form of “carbon tax”.

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