Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is a natural gas-fueled industrial boom good for the planet?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 9:41 AM

It seems that any effort to address climate change is plagued by criticism that it'll cripple economic growth. As long as fossil fuels are cheap and abundant, not just in the United States but across the globe, that dynamic will probably continue.

For an idea why, consider the story published yesterday by the Washington Post, which says that the shale gas boom "is firing up an old-fashioned American industrial revival." In particular, the petrochemical, nitrogen fertilizer, and plastics industries are considering bringing back domestic production facilities. And they have their eyes on areas that are producing shale gas so they can be close to the new natural gas supplies.

The Post article gives little attention to the environmental aspects of the gas boom and its potential to fuel industrial revival. But the industries in question are hardly clean. And their natural-gas consumption will result in lots of greenhouse gas emissions. The article does succinctly explain why that's trouble for environmentalists and others who want stronger regulations of greenhouse gases and shale gas drilling.

"As new gas supplies fuel more and more industrial plants, new constituencies will have stakes in gas production, making it politically harder to impose new regulations," says the Post article.

The scientific consensus is that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, global carbon dioxide emissions need to decrease. Yet earlier this week, Reuters reported that global carbon dioxide emissions increased 2.5 percent in 2011. The reason: increased industrial activity.

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