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« Royal Society to investigate fracking | Main | Myles Allen on Climategate »

Shale gas slashes US carbon emissions

The FT is reporting a dramatic drop in US carbon dioxide emissions, apparently because of the increasing use of natural gas in its economy.

The shale gas boom in the US has led to a big drop in its carbon emissions, as power generators switch from coal to cheap gas.

According to the International Energy Agency, US energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, fell by 450m tonnes over the past five years – the largest drop among all countries surveyed.

The evidence that shale gas will help ease the worries of those who fret about global warming now seems overwhelming. I think this is where we find out how many of them are serious about global warming and how many of them are just anti-capitalists.

Let's see what the Guardian makes of it shall we?

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Reader Comments (42)

Cue replays of 'Gasland', mutterings about earthquakes and water table contamination, etc., etc., etc.

Someone please remind me of the details of this incident: A commentator asked a CAGW-inclined group of folk if, should rising CO2 levels prove NOT to be driving climate change, they would be happy for us to carry on as normal. Not one agreed.

I'm afraid we are well past the point of dispassionate rationality in this debate. In much the same way as adherence to the European project is driven by emotion and fears, so is commitment to the CAGW hypothesis. It simply HAS to be true. And if not true, useful.

May 24, 2012 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

I do not think it will make any difference to the thinking of those in charge. They remain, and will remain, in a box of their own design and construction.

For example, it is clear that the airport tax was specifically designed to discourage air travel by families - to price them out of the market. Boris Johnson revealed this in one of his DT articles when he quoted a minister to this effect. I do wonder if the government has also bought into the wider "need for rationing" argument advanced by some in the green lobby. A professor (name escapes me) has been quoted in these pages advocating rationing and population control. Of course they will not admit or say this out loud - but their actions speak for themselves. It is hair shirts for everyone.

Cameron, and in particular his wife a known Greenpeace supporter, must be fully signed up to it. It is consistent with the growth in staff at DECC and at the Department for International Development, both busy promoting the global warming agenda. Nothing will change unless and until Cameron is replaced by his party. Ed Miliband also is just as committed as the man who piloted the Climate Change Bill into law.

May 24, 2012 at 7:46 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

The US emits 5,461 million tonnes annually so 90m tonnes improvement is not that big a deal

May 24, 2012 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered Commenteriamreddave

Ordinary people are not organized and do not have politically formulated interests. They are also not helped by the existing political parties because these parties are not raising this issue either. They are already – almost all of them – more or less captured by the Greens.

The above quote is from the text of Václav Klaus Heartland Institute Conference Speech as reported on WUWT?

May 24, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

@ gixxerboy

I think the incident you describe never actually took place, but has been put forward many times as a "thought experiment".

Green thinking on this matter can be summed up by the caption of a popular green cartoon:

"Wouldn't it be terrible if global warming turned out not to be happening and we went ahead and built a better world anyway?"

The perversion of environmentalism is only one of the horrible skewing effects this scare is causing,

May 24, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage


It is a HUUUUGE deal. Remembering that this is the heart of the evil capitalist world and they have achieved a drop in carbon emissions when no one else has.

Whats even more important is that this proves emissions reductions can be achieved without having to bankrupt ones economy...something lost on the green loons!


May 24, 2012 at 8:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Stagcession, too.

May 24, 2012 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Gixxerboy and Jack Savage

It did indeed happen. It was the lead item on Roger Harribans post climategate radio documentary. The question asked was along the lines of: if I could wave a magic wand today and put global CO2 levels back to preindustrial levels who here would want me to do it? Very few people put their hands up.

Pretty much tells you everything, doesn't it? They don't want to save the planet, they just want their hands on the levers of power.

The person in question was if I recall a PR person and very pro-warmist. They seemed quite surprised by the audiences reaction.

The details are on my browser somewhere. I'll dig them out and post a link.

May 24, 2012 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Okay. Here it is.

It wasn't Roger Harriban (as if). It was Justin Rowlett; the BBC's ‘ethical man’. Snort.

The person asking the question was Solitaire Townsend Co-founder and Chief Executive of Futerra Sustainability Communications

TOWNSEND: I was making a speech to nearly 200
really hard core, deep environmentalists and I played
a little thought game on them. I said imagine I am the
carbon fairy and I wave a magic wand. We can get rid
of all the carbon in the atmosphere, take it down to
two hundred fifty parts per million and I will ensure
with my little magic wand that we do not go above
two degrees of global warming. However, by waving
my magic wand I will be interfering with the laws of
physics not with people – they will be as selfish, they
will be as desiring of status. The cars will get bigger,
the houses will get bigger, the planes will fly all over
the place but there will be no climate change. And I
asked them, would you ask the fairy to wave its
magic wand? And about 2 people of the 200 raised
their hands.

ROWLATT: That is quite shocking. I bet you were
shocked, weren’t you?

TOWNSEND: I was angry. I wasn’t shocked. I was
angry because it really showed that they wanted
more. They didn’t just want to prevent climate
change. They wanted to somehow change people, or
at very least for people to know that they had to

May 24, 2012 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Here is a synopsis of the FT story for those who don't want to register up to become a member of FT.

May 24, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterWindy

It would be a pity if Global Warming became a lost cause - that would make some software I own less valuable.

It would be a pity if shale gas thrives - that would make an invention of mine less valuable.

And yet: the Global Warming Cause is largely a matter of incompetence and fraud, and shale gas is a boon. That's just how it is.

May 24, 2012 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

I suppose there's no point in telling the FT that the "main greenhouse gas" is water vapour, not carbon dioxide.
No? Thought not.

May 24, 2012 at 9:40 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

@ "The US emits 5,461 million tonnes annually so 90m tonnes improvement is not that big a deal"

iamreddave - the 450m tonnes improvement is the annual reduction from the 2007 peak USA emissions of 6GT/yr. The trend will continue as more US coal plants are shut down and replaced with gas. My energy costs as a citizen in the midwest USA is 4.6 cents/kWh and is fixed on a multi-year contract with roughly 46% coming from non emitting sources, nuclear/wind/hydro.

May 24, 2012 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterWindy

Thanks Stuck-Record.
I heard part of that but had no idea the transcript was available.
The closing paragraphs make particularly interesting reading, especially this exchange:

<< ROWLATT: You make it sound quite cynical - using
climate change as a tactical device. It’s almost as if
climate change is a sort of convenient truth.

HULME: I think all campaigning organisations,
whether in civil society or whether in politics, will
use agendas in order to further their particular goals.
Whether you admire those other goals or not is a
separate set of questions, but it seems to me this is the
way in which climate change has emerged over the
last 5 or 10 years >>

May 24, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

Global Green Agenda

"Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun."- Prof Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

Say no more......................

May 24, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterA Lovell

Nuclear - NO
Shale gas - NO!
Cheap energy - NO!!

Why? because we are watermelons.

May 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

A Lovell
For some reason that quote of Ehrlich's — which I confess to having used many times in argument — hit me over the back of the head this morning.
What actually does it mean? What precise point is he trying to make? Why is having cheap and abundant energy such a dangerous prospect?

May 24, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Because the plebs will rut and produce more plebs until there's no enough any more. At some point there's a finite limit on the numbers of people, and in their opinion, delaying the inevitable hard decisions isn't worth it.

May 24, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

The Greens are already trying to distract attention from the effects that their wind energy policies will have on fuel bills by putting the blame on the costs of the new nuclear power stations that the government is talking about building. It is too bad that the government is not simply talking about wind!

Although the Greens could start a big campaign against shale gas they could use more subtle, obstructive methods. People are naturally concerned about the quality of drinking water. There has also been publicity to the "gender bending" effect that some chemicals in rivers have on fish. Nobody would object to a thorough study of whether or not any of the chemicals we are putting into our water supplies have any long-term effects on human health. Suppose the government decided to set up such an enquiry. Then, when plans for exploiting our reserves of shale gas were put forward the Greens could simply say "is it wise to risk polluting our ground water with a lot of new chemicals when we are waiting for the results of the survey on ground water and health?

It would sound perfectly reasonable and therefore would be an ideal delaying tactic.

May 24, 2012 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Thank you, Old-timer.
"Ed Miliband also is just as committed as the man who piloted the Climate Change Bill into law."
Yes, his brother David. It runs in the family, you know.
if you haven't already done so, it's worth looking at the hilarious 12 minutes or so of Bryony Worthington on YouTube:
Bryony was a publicity officer for Friends of the Earth, employed to provide the substance of the Carbon Bill under Labour. In the YouTube seminar, she describes how amazingly fast the Bill went through – three months which apparently is a record. She says she couldn't believe how easy it was and anyway was only done to please David Milliband (I don't know him but he must be a really nice chap). The Labour government obviously didn't know what to do with her after the exhausting and exhaustive drafting of the Bill so they made her a Baroness.

May 24, 2012 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJasper Solomon

If what you want to do is bring down Capitalism, attack its primary sources of energy, the base upon which the whole enterprise rests. And if one line of attack fails, well switch to another. And so we see it: emphasis drifting away from the GHG we're doomed argument as a means of undermining fossil fuels, to the dangers of fracking as a reason for not using shale gas. And no doubt, over time, the 'scientific' arguments against fracking will be exposed as dodgy, just as much as the global warming stuff has been; so then the dedicated anti-Caps will come up with something else, and their army of useful idiots will parrot it far and wide.

May 24, 2012 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Mike Jackson.

I think the answers to your questions can be (partially) explained in the article THE REAL GLOBAL WARMING CONSENSUS (or 'Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism') by Martin Durkin.

His site is He is, of course, the director of 'The Great Global Warming Swindle'.

May 24, 2012 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterA Lovell

I find it interesting that 'fossil' fuels are also found throughout the solar system....

May 24, 2012 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergraft

@ oldtimer

It is hair shirts for everyone else.

Fixed that for you

May 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

@ TheBigYinJames

Because the plebs will rut and produce more plebs until there's no enough any more

Another fun thought experiment a propos of this very common green lie - that we're going to run out of stuff one day - is to ask people what fossil resources they can think of that we've ever run out of, and then what supposedly "renewable" resources we have ever run out of.

The answer to the first question is "none" and the answer to the second depends how long you've got: whale oil, elephant ivory, peat, hardwood, biodiesel, human slaves, and so on.

The amusing fact is that the only empirically sustainable resources are fossil. Despite the hypothetically finite supply, the actual replacement rate has always exceeded the demand. Canonically sustainable / renewable resources are no such thing in practice, because the rate of consumption quite often overtakes the replacement rate.

Ecoloonies go absolutely apoplectic when this is pointed out to them, but this is good, because an angry greenoid is one who, in his heart of hearts, knows he's going to lose this argument with posterity.

May 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka


Thank you very much for that. Your ability to remember, access and post that refreshes my belief in the Bishop's congregation - especially your good self!

I think it sums up the problem. The science, and the 'science', are chess pieces. Taking them on is necessary but don't imagine overturning their findings will immediately reverse the policies.

One of my weaknesses is being influenced by what I am reading. Right now, that is Life & Fate by Vasily Grossman. For an understanding of the power of ideology over intelligence and instinct, it's hard to beat.

May 24, 2012 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

Just had a drive out this morning and passed the large Windfarm south of Glasgow on the Fenwick Moor, not a single turbine moving as there is no wind !!!!!!! The lack of wind is so bad they are not even cycling any in case the wind picks up. They will have to shortly or the gearboxes will seize And all the shale gas is still in the ground and going to stay there if our masters have their way..

May 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

The CO2 argument applies even more strongly so it has long been obvious who in the "green" movement is simply anti-progress (I am not one of those who think they are really marxists, Marx was entirely in favour of technological progrees, but that when you peel off al the false labels they are simply Luddites scared of any technology more complicated than a knife and fork).

So looking at the record the "environmentalists" who actually believe their own scare story are Lovelock, except he is a sceptic now & Moonbat has made some marginally pronuclear noises and then there is ... um... err.

May 24, 2012 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

If you look at the neta website, Wind is currently, 12.40pm, producing 26 Megawatts which is 0.1% of total electricity production and approximately 0.43% of 6,000 Megawatts (which I understand is approximately the total installed capacity). What a wonderful source of electricity! Blackouts here we come.

May 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

"Let's see what the Guardian makes of it"

Not to mention the Royal Society, in their hastily arranged review of the subject. All the stops are being pulled out to prevent us having cheap, plentiful and secure energy...

May 24, 2012 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

May 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

Not surprised about that. Here in the pastoral country in Australia we have a phenomenon called a "wind drought" where windmills for water do not work and water has to be carted by truck to the stock watering points.

These can last for several weeks.

May 24, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRipper

On a happier note, I just got my 50 year old Jaguar back from storage.
Later today I plan to fill it up with some good old 4-star and take it for a blast around Cambridge.
Urban mpg is horrendous- particularly if I deliberately drive in low gear.
But think of all the CO2 belching out, not to mention the unfiltered and uncatalysed carbon monoxide (4%), unburned hydrocarbons and particulate lead.

Hopefully I will cause some apoplexy amongst the bearded CAGW freaks who infest this City.

What is there not to like? :-)

May 24, 2012 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"good old 4-star"

Can you still get it?

May 24, 2012 at 1:45 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

I guess the New Puritans still don't accept that the pursuit of happiness is legitimate. Just like the old puritans.

The reduced CO2 emissions per unit of energy is a simple corollary of high school chemistry.

May 24, 2012 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

They hate people.

May 24, 2012 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

A recent study produced by the US Government Accountability Office found that "Tapping the vast amounts of oil locked within U.S. oil shale formations could go a long way toward satisfying the nation’s future oil demands. Oil shale deposits in the Green River Formation are estimated to contain up to 3 trillion barrels of oil, half of which may be recoverable, which is about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves."

This remarkable conclusion was, of course, all but ignored by the American mainstream media.

May 24, 2012 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJBirks

With some difficulty so I don't usually use it :-)
On the other hand I have to do a 50 mile round trip to get it, so well worth it to blow out the cobwebs after 2 months of enforced inactivity on the part of the "cat".

It will also help lubricate the cylinderhead- I use regular most of the time.

May 24, 2012 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Let us ignore the green movement at this point and just look at the shale gas producers on their own. I am sorry but from what I can see the US producers have destroyed a massive amount of capital because their costs exceed the market price of the gas when the accounting is done properly. This is why Chesapeake, which gave money to the Sierra Club so that it could pressure the EPA to close coal plants, is desperately seeking to sell itself as a shale liquids play. The trouble is geologic reality. Other than in a few prolific core areas most shale formations are net losers because the energy return on energy invested is negative. In our eagerness to take shots at the foolish greens let us not fall for a bubble ourselves. If we use the correct EURs we find that there is very little hope that shale gas and oil are solutions for our energy problems.

May 24, 2012 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterVangelV

@ neil craig

Luddites scared of any technology more complicated than a knife and fork

Excellent, must remember that one!

I've always thought there were three things in particular that you could not invent today if they were new ideas. Insurance and credit cards are two of them and the third is too rude to mention on a family blog. If one reflects on the nanny culture of today it is quite obvious why they couldn't be invented today.

Ecoluddites have got the worst imaginable case of the same attitude, and in fact if all we did have was forks, we can be sure they'd object virulently to the invention of knives. Why, if we had knives, we'd be able to eat more and thus our food supplies would all die out, they would reason.

May 24, 2012 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

@Don Keiler

Avoid Hills Road my friend. I might be trying to sleep in my office with the window open.


May 24, 2012 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterArgusfreak

It may have caught me at my most obtuse, but I don't understand the Townsend quote. I strongly suspect that the people who were asked the question didn't understand it either. I further suggest that had the question been inverted to ask those who wished the Fairy not to wave the wand, the result would have been the same.

I suppose this would suggest that I think people are making too much of this episode. I do so think. But that is not at all to say that I disagree with the drift of this thread. I just think this example doesn't carry much water. But as I suggested in front, I've spent a day with the ancestors and my brain may be fried.

May 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Jack S

"a better world"

It's quite beguiling, isn't it? A bucolic world, with a few windmills and solar panels providing all the power (!) the fields full of organic crops, and bouncing children playing with puppies in the foreground; a bit like those strange pictures of the second Eden in The Watchtower, with lions looking on benignly (although I imagine in the next frame they will have eaten the children and the artist).

Somehow, I don't think it would suit everyone, least of all the Huhnes, Monbiots, Will.i.ams and most of the people who are advocating it, although I realise (as J4R has noted above) they mean it for everyone else.

May 25, 2012 at 9:37 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

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