A Decline in Fracking Could Hurt Efforts to Tackle Climate Change

Mason Inman, writing in Grist, asks: “What happens if the shale boom truly goes bust?”

“My worry is that natural gas and oil prices will shoot back up, driving a return to coal, an expansion of tar-sands extraction, and more generally a push to scrap limits on greenhouse gas emissions … According to EIA data, in nearly all the nation’s major shale gas zones — including the biggest of all, the Marcellus — production is now falling.”

graph: Natural gas production from four biggest US shale zones

“With higher natural gas and oil prices serving as a brake on the U.S. economy — and economic growth worldwide — I fear these short-term economic interests will trump the long-term effort required to tackle climate change.”

“To avoid this kind of reversal, the United States needs to continue and expand efforts that will accelerate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.”

“To accelerate the rollout of renewable energy, the country can reinstate tax credits that aided wind, and extend tax credits for solar that are due to expire at the end of 2016.”

“My hope is that if oil and natural gas prices do shoot back up, alternative sources like solar, wind, and electric vehicles will have made enough progress to be able to better compete. But even so, the transition to clean energy will require the enactment of wise, increasingly strict policies — and keeping them in place— whether oil and gas prices are low or high.”

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