Update of Fracking and the Supposed Energy Bridge

One of the main arguments for fracking, where shale is “washed” and natural gas is recovered, is that it will eventually reduce the carbon emission output of the energy creation industry. The idea is that because natural gas burns so much cleaner than coal, the most widely used fuel for energy creation today, it will act as a bridge between fossil fuel based energy production and the even cleaner, greener, nuclear power and natural power (including solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric). The clean burning natural gas, which is becoming plentiful thanks to the fracking techniques debuted in the last 5 years, will lower emissions by up to half from coal and then the other power sources can step in and lower it even further in the future.

A tower built for fracking stands well above the tree line in rural Pennsylvania.

A tower built for fracking stands well above the tree line in rural Pennsylvania.

This seems like a great idea on the surface, but when it is explored, as researchers recently did in the scholarly journal Nature, it falls to pieces. It is true that natural gas burns cleanly but it’s effect on the energy production industry will almost certainly be negative. The reasons why are myriad but can be reduced to one, the ever increasing supply of shale natural gas and the ease of and opportunity for collecting more.

Because it is so cheap to and because there are so many places on the planet that are untapped, the supply of shale natural gas is skyrocketing. This propels the price for the gas down and that is where the problems begin. A lower price point means it will be adopted by many energy producers in the industry and those producers will be able to sell energy at very affordable rates. The competition for the energy market will increase and the natural, renewable sources of energy production will be pushed out of the market.

As one of the researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that published the study, Haewon McJeon, puts it, “[New] technology could double or triple the global natural gas production by 2050. But greenhouse gas emissions would continue to grow in the absence of climate policies that promote lower carbon energy sources.” So, unless governments step in and subsidize renewable energy sources to make them more affordable than the natural gas alternative, most consumers will choose the cheaper option. The lower price will also allow for more frivolous use of energy (it’s cheap so why not use it?) leading to more energy production and higher carbon emissions.

The energy “bridge” will be built by the frackers and their shale natural gas, yes, but it would seemingly go on forever, never reaching the other side where renewable energy waits. And, in the long run, that will do more damage to our environment than sticking with coal and moving more quickly to renewable sources.

from Danny Yehia http://ift.tt/1ocH5kV