Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, remains the target of many environmental groups and some governments who seek to prohibit or significantly curtail the practice. Fracking, however, has provided an abundance of cheap natural gas, which has played a major role in the dramatic decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in the United States. The decrease in CO2 and the role fracking has played in it has created an interesting, and perhaps inconvenient, irony.
The combustion of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas) in the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors creates the vast majority of greenhouse gases (GHG). Coal combustion creates much more CO2 than the combustion of natural gas. CO2 is the most abundant of GHG and remains in the atmosphere much longer than other GHG, such as methane. Although methane and other GHG have a higher global warming potential, the large amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere has been a major focus of the climate change (formerly known as ‘global warming’) debate. Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and the Kyoto Protocol are examples of national and international efforts spurred by environmental groups seeking massive decreases in CO2 emissions. Continue reading “An Inconvenient Irony”