Carpe Diem

A ‘real American triumph’: The US shale revolution delivers a much cleaner environment, along with jobs and prosperity


John Hanger’s top energy fact of 2012, in a post titled “An American Triumph,” is captured in the chart above, showing annual US real GDP and annual US C02 emissions from 1986 to 2012, with estimates for last year based on the first nine months of data for both series. During the twenty year period between 1986 and 2006, there was a strong positive relationship between America’s economic output (real GDP) and the amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated each year (that pattern actually goes back much further). For many decades, the activities associated with increasing economic output generated increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, as the chart clearly shows.

But the historical, positive relationship between real GDP and CO2 emissions broke down in about 2007. Over the last five years since 2007, when CO2 emissions were the highest in history (more than 6 billion metric tons), real GDP has increased by 3.4%, while CO2 emissions have declined by about 12%. Depending on final calculations for the last quarter, carbon emissions in 2012 could fall to the lowest level in 20 years, going all the way back to 1992 (see chart). For the first time in recent history, the US has been able to produce increasing amount of economic output over the last five years, while at the same time experience huge reductions in C02 emissions.

How is that possible? While increased energy efficiency and renewable energies have played a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, most of the credit for the historically unprecedented reduction in CO2 emissions goes to the shale gas revolution, which started in about 2007 with the technological breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing. Here’s how John explains the “American Triumph“:

It is a true American triumph that energy related carbon emissions will be down in 2012 another 4% from 2011 levels and will be back to approximately 1995 levels. The carbon clock has rolled back 17 years, and 2012 emissions will be even less than in the near-depression year of 2009.

US GDP has grown every quarter since July 1, 2009, and today our economy is bigger than it was in 2007, the peak carbon emission year. Yet, even with an economy in 2012 that is bigger than in 2007, our carbon emissions will be 12% lower than they were in 2007.

The recipe for US carbon success includes more natural gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency. But central and unique to the US success is massive shale gas production and the resulting low gas prices causing a substantial shift to electricity generated from lower carbon gas and away from coal and oil.

Many other countries like China are investing heavily in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and such investments are essential. Notwithstanding impressive investments in clean energy, China and other nations have rising coal use and carbon emissions. Around the world, renewables and energy efficiency help but have not been enough by themselves to even stabilize carbon emissions, let alone reduce them.
Only the USA has had a shale gas boom and only the USA has cut substantially its carbon emissions since 2006. When combined with rising amounts of renewable energy and energy efficiency, the shale gas boom substantially decreased US carbon emissions. Moreover, US electricity prices in 2012 have barely increased and natural gas prices have plummeted.
Cleaner and cheaper energy is a real American triumph and my Top Energy Fact of 2012!

MP: As I have commented previously, it’s really hard to exaggerate all of the significant benefits of the shale revolution for the US economy over the last five years, and the significant reduction in carbon emissions since 2007 is just one part of a “real American triumph,” as John Hanger calls it. In addition to the significant environmental benefits of shale gas, the revolution for both shale gas and shale oil provided a well-timed energy-based stimulus to the economy starting in about 2007, just as the Great Recession and financial crisis crippled the economy. It’s quite sobering to think about where the US economy and job market would be today, and how much higher CO2 emissions would be, without the “energy revolution” that was made possible with advanced drilling technology.

To summarize, the great “American triumph” is creating millions of shovel-ready jobs throughout the US labor market, stimulating the economy with trillions of dollars of new investment capital, lowering energy costs for residential and industrial customers and generating billions of dollars of savings, bringing US natural gas prices down to the lowest level in the world and helping to spark a renaissance in energy-intensive manufacturing, adding billions of dollars of revenues for federal and state governments, and creating thousands of new millionaires from the oil and gas royalties being paid out to farmers and landowners around the country. And as an additional environmental benefit, we’re “rolling the carbon clock back” by several decades. Unless there is major political or regulatory interference, the impact of the energy revolution and the “real American triumph” is just getting started, and provides one of the strongest reasons to be optimistic about the US economy, the job market, and the environment.

HT: Robert Kuehl

22 thoughts on “A ‘real American triumph’: The US shale revolution delivers a much cleaner environment, along with jobs and prosperity

  1. This country refuses to let facts or commonsense weigh in on the topic of fraccing. Besides, Hollywood and all the cool liberal kids say that fraccing is bad! Thus it has to be bad!

  2. Note that if you go combined cycle a gas turbine plant is 60% efficient in converting heat to electricity. The most modern coal plants with supercritical boilers might get to 42% in this measure. Of course this just continues the trend recall that the old steam engines were about 5 to 10% efficient, which is why Insull went to steam turbines, which in a subcritical plant get to around 33% efficiency.
    So the modern gas plant (not the old replace coal with gas under the boiler model) does much better at conversion of heat to electricity. In addition the gas turbine plants start up much faster. Many today are used as more peaking plants, recall that electricity usage varies by 50% or more depending on the time of day. (Of course this is a problem that has been around the the Pearl Street Station in the 1880s). Thus being able to significantly throttle the output is important.

    • It’s interesting that technology has achieved this much at the same time Algore and crew were arguing over, and some foreign countries implementing, a carbon tax to achieve the same thing. I wonder, if our power companies had “invested” in a new tax instead of real solutions, what the chart would look like.

  3. The bridge to the future has finally arrived….but it may never reach Boulder, Colorado.

    The Liberal Luddites in the People’s Republic of Boulder are seriously considering soon exiting Xcel’s grid (their current electric utility) and replacing this power source with their own municipal power authority that relies on “renewable” energy.

    The wise lib-luddites in the People’s Republic place the entire cost of their proposed municipal utility at $223 million, in sharp contrast to Xcel consultant Utilipoint’s estimate at over $1.2 billion. The lib luddites also estimate the associated renewable costs at ZERO, while Xcel puts the cost at about $785 million. Apparently, Boulder has a secret supply of windmills and solar panels that will deliver the needed equipment and maintenance thereof at ZERO cost to the city. That’s $00.00 cost. How liberal of them !!

    Liberal luddite Heather Bailey, Boulder’s executive director of energy strategy and electric-utility development says “…the goal isn’t about creating a municipal utility, its about reducing emissions.” Boulder must also have its own private and secret source of oxygen.

    Just wait until the People’s Republic of Boulder is forced to initiate a light-switch surcharge of $1,000 per click as soon as the massive costs of this wacky misadventure visits Boulder like the predictable financial tsunami that it is. Boulder, in case you didn’t know, is a sleepy little college town of 50,000 hard-core liberals, socialists and greenies, including the non-taxpaying kids attending CU.

    I bet within 5-years of launching their “green solution,” this crowd of Boulder lib luddites will all be standing on the front lawn of the state capital and shaking their tin cups into the face of the then governor, screaming what libs always scream and begging for their bail out.

    • Not to mention the required billion dollar back-up power source because…


    • MacDaddyWatch

      Is this what happens when marijuana is decriminalized? Perhaps I should temper my previously enthusiastic support.

      It should be obvious to anyone that the lib-luddites in the Peoples Republic of Boulder aren’t considering spending their *own* money on this unicorn farm – not with crazy numbers like THAT flying around.

      Gotta love this quote:

      “Liberal luddite Heather Bailey, Boulder’s executive director of energy strategy and electric-utility development says “…the goal isn’t about creating a municipal utility, its about reducing emissions.

      Well then just turn the damn thing off. That should do the trick.

    • With all those brainiacs at the university, they must know more than we mere troglodytes. Maybe they’re counting on grants from the Chinese solar panel industry. Colleges thrive on grants, which can reduce any new scheme to zero cost.

  4. ‘Alarmingly High Methane Emissions’ from Natural Gas Extraction – New research on “alarmingly high methane emissions” brings further environmental scrutiny to natural gas extraction including fracking, and illustrates how the boom in the industry may well be a plan for climate disaster. The findings, led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), were presented at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, the journal Nature reports, and reiterated data the team first noted in February of 2012 that 4% of the methane produced at a field near Denver was escaping into the atmosphere. The team also presented preliminary findings from a Utah study that suggested an even higher rate of methane emissions—9% of the total production.

    • NOAA Confirms High Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, Gutting Climate Benefit – Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have reconfirmed earlier findings of high rates of methane leakage from natural gas fields. If these findings are replicated elsewhere, they would utterly vitiate the climate benefit of natural gas, even when used to switch off coal. Indeed, if the previous findings — of 4% methane leakage over a Colorado gas field — were a bombshell, then the new measurements reported by the journal Nature are thermonuclear: … the research team reported new Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage — an eye-popping 9% of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data — which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado. The Uinta Basin is of particular interest because fracking has increased there over the past decade. How much methane leaks during the entire lifecycle of unconventional gas has emerged as a key question in the fracking debate. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4). And methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than (CO2), which is released when any hydrocarbon, like natural gas, is burned — 25 times more potent over a century and 72 to 100 times more potent over a 20-year period.

      • Methane is a very serious problem for life on earth as we know it. Imagine if every cow on the planet decided to fart all at once?


        • That explains a lot. Also, I just heard on NPR (I tune in occasionally to hear their daily global warming scare story) that a new oil pipeline in OK is causing earthquakes because of the weight of all that oil. Must be some strong welds on those pipes to withstand a direct hit from an earthquake.
          With 2.5 million miles of oil pipelines across the US, you’d expect us all to have felt at least one earthquake per day for the past few decades. When’s the last time you felt one?


      Its run by very same green environuts and heatingphobes who run Boulder. Some are on the CU faculty.

      This arm of the Dept. of Commerce (I don’t get the intellectual connection between commerce and weather either) sports a $6 billion taxpayer funded budget. And for 6 billion taxpayer dollars, we get a very expensive weather report backed by several thermometers, barometers and a staff of highly biased left-wing zealots and their discredited political/climate agenda. That’s right–discredited.

      A few decades ago, this very same crowd of irresponsible zealots gave the world “THE COMING ICE AGE.” More recently, this bunch travels with the data-doctoring crowd infamously associated with Penn State and East Anglia universities.

  5. Man made global warming is “new religion” just like socialism and fascism. Believers have to disregard history and good science to bolster their beliefs.
    Water vapor is the most abundant and most effectual “greenhouse gas”; it is so abundant and stores so much energy that it alone regulates earth’s temperature. Imagine what Venus and Mars would now be if they had been blessed with 70% surface coverage by water like earth.

  6. Global warming is not bunk. Its real and started about 10,000 years ago at the end of the ice age. Man made global warming however is bunk. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been falling for 400 million years…from 40,000 ppm to today’s 380 ppm. Currently 98% of the carbon dioxide is disolved in the ocean and only 2% is left in the atmosphere to support all green life on earth.

    • What an opportunity for carbon swap credits! If a company could find an economical way to remove CO2 from the ocean, then it could sell the CO2, and the credits, to the carbonated water folks. Double profit! I wonder if I can get Algore to invest in this venture.

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