The Shale Boom’s Green Merit, Visualized
ANNUAL ENERGY CONSUMPTIONIn quadrillion Btus
That gaping maw formed by those two diverging lines in the above graph is proof of a profane truth your average environmentalist is loathe to hear: shale gas is fracking green.
The chart, sourced from the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Review, shows a spike in natural gas consumption in latter half of last decade, and a reduction in coal consumption that seems to mirror the shale-induced spike. Fracking unlocked massive new reserves of natural gas previously trapped in shale rock formations, and in so doing flooded the U.S. with a glut of cheap gas. Coal has struggled to compete with this new player, which explains its precipitous decline in recent years.
So what’s green about this development? Coal emits roughly double the amount of greenhouse gases that natural gas does; in fact, burning coal is just about the most environmentally damaging energy option available. The shale boom’s gain has been coal’s loss, and in turn, coal’s loss has been Gaia’s gain. More of this, please.