ALL HAIL SHALE: Fracking Is Making America Greener.
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling have transformed the American energy landscape in the space of a decade, unlocking huge new reserves of natural gas and oil that were trapped in shale formations and thought to be inaccessible. Fracking has therefore unleashed a flood of new supplies of hydrocarbons on the U.S. market, and that’s brought natural gas down to bargain basement prices.
As the EIA notes, we mostly use coal to generate electricity, but natural gas-fired power plants can accomplish that same task, which is why plunging natural gas prices are putting the squeeze on coal producers. For parts of the country that rely on the coal industry, this is a bitter pill to swallow, but for America’s environmentalists, this ought to be seen as something of a game changer. Coal is just about the dirtiest fossil fuel around, and burning it not only releases copious amounts of greenhouse gases, but also emits harmful air pollutants into the local environment. Natural gas burns much cleaner, emitting roughly half of those GHGs, and it’s growing momentum in this battle against coal can only be seen as good green news.
But the modern environmental movement is loathe to give any sort of credit to the shale boom, preferring instead to stick to its doom-and-gloom prognostications and moralist chiding. That’s a shame, because America isn’t getting the credit it deserves for greening its economy without donning the eco-hairshirt: No other developed country is making more progress in moving away from coal than we are. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating (even if it does fall on deaf ears amongst environmentalists): Shale gas is fracking green.
The thing is, the eco-hairshirt is the chief appeal — besides graft — of environmentalism.