As the U.S. Olympic team gets set to compete against the best athletes from around the world in London later this month, there’s at least one event for which the U.S.A. appears to have already won the gold. According to a new report from the Paris-based International Energy Agency, the United States has had “the largest reduction [of emissions] of all countries or regions” since 2006, cutting GHGs by a staggering 7.7 percent.
How’d we do that, you might ask? Unfortunately, the economic slowdown definitely had something to do with it. But you know what played an even bigger role than that? The development of natural gas from shale. In fact, the environmental benefits of natural gas from shale are so significant that carbon emissions dropped last year to levels not seen since 1996. Based on data from the Energy Information Administration, emissions this year are declining even further – with some suggesting that 2012 levels may come in below 1990 levels – the target set under Kyoto.
As John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, has observed: “The 1990 level of carbon emissions is an important measuring stick, as it is often used as a critical data point for judging progress in reducing a nation’s carbon emissions.” Hanger also notes that shale gas “is the key driver of falling carbon emissions, especially in the last 12 months.”
To put this into its proper perspective, consider: California’s cap and trade law mandates a reduction in carbon emissions back to 1990 levels…by 2020. (Also of note: anti-energy activists in California, most if not all of whom support cap and trade, are working overtime right now trying to ban hydraulic fracturing. Could it be that their efforts have nothing to do with reducing emissions?)
All of this also comes on the heels of the United Nations describing the “major role” natural gas will have in meeting future energy needs and reducing environmental impacts, as well as improving living standards for the world’s poor.
This rapid reduction in emissions, as John Hanger also points out, “would have been thought impossible, even at the end of 2011.” Thanks to technological progress, however, things have changed dramatically:
But the shale gas revolution makes a reality many things recently thought impossible. It was thought impossible to slash carbon US carbon emissions back to 1990 levels by 2012. It was thought impossible to massively, quickly cut carbon emissions and, at the same time, have lower energy bills.Shale gas production has slashed carbon emissions and saved consumers more than $100 billion per year. Truly astonishing!
Astonishing indeed. But all of this begs an important question: What, exactly, are opponents like the Sierra Club – who say they want to reduce carbon emissions – so upset about?