The USA is the global climate leader, while Europe and Germany are returning to coal. The main reason is gas, which increased last year by almost the exact same amount that coal declined.” Fracking certainly isn’t without its problems (see “Can Fracking Be Cleaned Up?” and “Measuring the Climate Impact of Natural Gas”).
But if fracking is done properly, the natural gas power it supports can better for the environment than coal power. So why are so many environmentalists against it? Part of the reason may be that some environmentalists are comparing fracking not to coal but to solar and wind power, on the assumption that we could easily abandon fossil fuels for renewables. That’s a mistake. Solar and wind aren’t yet ready to replace even a large fraction of fossil fuel power. Costs need to come down, especially for solar, and we need better ways to deal with the fact that the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind is unreliable. It will also take a long time to build enough solar panels–in spite of phenomenal growth recently, solar power still provides less than a percent of electricity.
(Image by River Side courtesy of Marcellus Outreach Butler, July 2011.)