You may have heard that Vermont is the latest place to ban fracking. I find this unfortunate for the people of Vermont, a famously cold place. Why? Natural gas prices have plummeted and it has been estimated that a typical homeowner’s heating and electric bill has fallen by over $1,000 per year as a result of fracking technologies. Vermont is a poor state, and it is a state that relies heavily on agriculture. Cheap heating and electricity costs would be a boon to these industries.
But they have chosen to cut off their nose. Fine. Here is Al Gore pointing out the VT ban (click to enlarge):
Has Gore followed what has actually been happening with carbon emissions? If you read the headlines you’d be depressed perhaps – the world’s carbon emissions increased by 3.2% last year driven by coal burning. However, if you read down the International Energy Agency’s report, you will find the following:
CO2 emissions in the United States in 2011 fell by 92 Mt, or 1.7%, primarily due to ongoing switching from coal to natural gas in power generation and an exceptionally mild winter, which reduced the demand for space heating. US emissions have now fallen by 430 Mt (7.7%) since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions. This development has arisen from lower oil use in the transport sector (linked to efficiency improvements, higher oil prices and the economic downturn which has cut vehicle miles travelled) and a substantial shift from coal to gas in the power sector.
The EIA projects that carbon emissions in the US will fall by almost 3% this year, even amidst an economic recovery largely due to the displacement of coal-fired power plants with cleaner gas-fired ones. By the end of this year, we will have reduced carbon emissions by 2% of global emissions over a 6 year period. This is incredible, and the shale gas boom is only in its infancy (that’s if we don’t kill it). This post has nothing at all to do with whether fracking is risky – we have and will continue to discuss that. But as I said, if global warming poses the greatest risk humanity has ever faced, it is beyond odd to see folks celebrate the banning of fracking and that it is not taken more seriously by the “E”nvironmental community.