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Friday, August 17, 2012

CARBON DIOXIDE - At Its Lowest Level In 20 Years

Natural Gas Fracking Well in Pennsylvania

Harry Wrote - 

Carbon Dioxide is a pretty harmless gas. It is produced by our body in our breath. It is also the product of burning - whether is be wood - coal - natural gas - gasoline - diesel fuel. Scientist called it a Greenhouse Gas. The more carbon dioxide in the air - the more the earth's atmosphere traps sunlight heat in - causing global warming. 

In the past I have been an advocate burning coal as a major fuel in our country. We have more coal than the Arabs have oil. We are able to make coal into a type of gasoline for autos. We can heat our homes and factories with coal cheaply. But coal adds more carbon dioxide into the air than natural gas. 

They have discovered a way to get natural gas out of the ground easier called Fracking. Simply - you shoot mud - chemicals - and water into the ground and it forces natural gas out of the ground.

Just two short years ago - the United States was making 50% of our electricity with coal. Now - since the price of natural gas has dropped dramatically - we only make 35% of our electricity with coal. 

This drop in coal use has led to the lowest production of carbon dioxide in the USA in 20 years. Numbers like that make me change my values. We are going to build a new house - it will be powered by natural gas for heat - cooling - and electricity. Yes - Tallahassee makes most of its electricity with natural gas - a little with hydroelectric power.

Believe me - industry does not care much making the air cleaner - unless they can save money doing it. We all still want our electricity - but we want it cheaper - if natural gas pollutes less fine - as long as it costs less.

From the Washington Post Today

PITTSBURGH — In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for “cautious optimism” about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that “ultimately people follow their wallets” on global warming.

“There’s a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado.

In a little-noticed technical report, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said this month that energy related U.S. CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels. Energy emissions make up about 98 percent of the total. The Associated Press contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.

While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.

A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from $7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced. As a result, utilities are relying more than ever on gas-fired generating plants.

Both government and industry experts said the biggest surprise is how quickly the electric industry turned away from coal. In 2005, coal was used to produce about half of all the electricity generated in the U.S. The Energy Information Agency said that fell to 34 percent in March, the lowest level since it began keeping records nearly 40 years ago.

The question is whether the shift is just one bright spot in a big, gloomy picture, or a potentially larger trend.

Coal and energy use are still growing rapidly in other countries, particularly China, and CO2 levels globally are rising, not falling. Moreover, changes in the marketplace — a boom in the economy, a fall in coal prices, a rise in natural gas — could stall or even reverse the shift. For example, U.S. emissions fell in 2008 and 2009, then rose in 2010 before falling again last year.

Also, while natural gas burns cleaner than coal, it still emits some CO2. And drilling has its own environmental consequences, which are not yet fully understood.

“Natural gas is not a long-term solution to the CO2 problem,” Pielke warned.

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