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Friday, July 24, 2015

Study: Economic Slump, Not Shale Drilling, is Responsible for Reduced CO2 Emissions

From UPI:
Experts have assumed that the drop in emissions reflected a shift toward natural gas, which produces roughly half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy as coal and was made cheap by the hydraulic fracturing boom.

Instead, most of the credit should be given to changing consumer demand and slumping industrial output during the period, according to findings published in the journal Nature Communications. The results are based on economic analysis of energy use, manufacturing, emissions and consumer demand between 1997 and 2013. 
"In our results, natural gas plays a bit part in decreasing emissions," said Steven Davis, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and a co-author of the study. "The real heroes are consuming less stuff and using energy more efficiently." 
Between 2007 and 2009, when U.S. emissions plummeted by 10 percent, there were changes in how much Americans consumed, what types of products they consumed, the balance of manufacturing and service industries, and the quantity of energy used per dollar of products produced. 
Together, these changes account for more than three-quarters of the decrease in emissions between 1997 and 2013, with changes in the mix of fuels used to generate energy accounting for just 18 percent, Davis said.
Click here to read that whole article.

When I saw this story, I had a theory for what the reaction to the study would be.  I figured that anti-fracking activists wil point to these results as further proof that natural gas is bad for the environment, and in doing so would not mention that even this report still acknowledges that changes in fuels for energy generation did account for 18 percent of the emissions reductions.  That seems to be exactly what has happened, if this article from the staunchly anti-drilling Salon is any indication.

Meanwhile, I figured that Energy in Depth would weigh in swiftly, likely finding several points to argue against the results of the study, including an anti-fossil fuel agenda on the part of the researchers.  And sure enough, click here to read Energy in Depth's response to the study.

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