Friday, August 17, 2012

Here comes Natural Gas.

Okay. Quiz time:

1) Which of these two countries signed the Kyoto Protocol: Canada or the US?

2) Which of these two countries have carbon taxing or trading schemes that cover at least half the population: Canada or the US?

3) Which of these two countries are closer to fulfilling their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol: Canada or the US?

Answer Key: 1) Canada, 2) Canada, and  3) The United States

That caught you by surprise, didn't it? Well, the answer of the why is an easy one. The US significantly reduced its carbon emissions not because of any government policy put into place that would have changed market forces or even voluntary compliance measures that did the same thing, but because market forces changed on their own. The great untold story of the Natural Gas Boom that is working its way through the United States right now - thanks to hydrofracking in places like North Dakota, Texas, and Pennsylvania - is the fact that coal power plants are converting themselves into natural gas power plants because the cost of the fuel to run the plant is so much less expensive. 

Will this continue the trend when the boom ends? Is natural gas also crowding out renewable energy in addition to coal? Or is natural gas a half way step between coal and our renewable energy future? 

None of these questions have good answers at the moment, but we should give credit to where it is due. So this one is to you, natural gas, you do some good in this world. 

Also interesting: Hydrofracking gas drilling and its effects have pitted environmentalists against each another. Environmentalists that prioritize local issues including water cleanliness versus environmentalists that prioritize global climate change. 

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