Environmentalists reverse opinion on natural gas fracking

Until a decade ago, experts believed that it would be technically infeasible to exploit the potential resource base of natural gas locked in 48 shale basins in 32 countries around the world. Then horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, was perfected. The shale gas rush was on, and last year the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) issued an analysis revising its estimates of available natural gas dramatically upward, says Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine's science correspondent.

Given its greenhouse gas benefits, environmental activists initially welcomed shale gas. That was then, but this is now. The environmentalist community has now collectively decided that natural gas is a "bridge to nowhere." Why? In an overview published last week by the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, journalist Matt Ridley explains: "As it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy as well as to coal, the green movement has turned against shale."

  • Indeed natural gas is cheaper than renewable sources of energy even if one includes the costs of carbon capture and sequestration.

  • Electricity produced using natural gas in a combined cycle generating plant comes in at $66 per megawatt-hour.

  • If one includes carbon capture and sequestration, basically burying carbon dioxide underground, the cost rises to $89 per megawatt-hour.

  • In contrast conventional coal costs $95 per megawatt-hour rising to $136 using carbon capture and sequestration.

    Source: Ronald Bailey, Environmentalists Were For Fracking Before They Were Against It, Reason Magazine, May 10, 2011.

    For text: http://reason.com/archives/2011/05/10/environmentalists-were-for-fr

    For Ridley overview: http://thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/Shale-Gas_4_May_11.pdf

    For more on Environment Issues: http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=31

    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 24 May 2011
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