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IER: US sets examples for emissions reduction

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), US carbon dioxide emissions were 2.5% less in 2015 than in 2014. In fact, since 2007, when they peaked, carbon dioxide emissions in the US have been reduced by 12.2%. According to the Washington Times, the US has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions more than virtually any other nation in the world. For comparison, the EU, which has spent US$1.2 trillion on support for wind, solar and bio-energy and increased its carbon dioxide emissions by 0.7% in 2015 over 2014 levels. The biggest increase was in Belgium, where carbon dioxide emissions increased by 4.7%.

The US achievement could be attributed to the development of hydraulic fracturing, and its use in producing natural gas from shale formations, such as the Marcellus in Pennsylvania. Both Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders) are against hydraulic fracturing, despite the carbon dioxide reductions it has produced.

The EU has formulated policies against the use of hydraulic fracturing, has provided support for the development of intermittent wind and solar technologies and biofuels, and has incorporated carbon reduction programmes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, the average European pays US$0.26.9/KW-hr for electricity, more than 2.5 times the average cost to a US consumer. Denmark, which generates almost 40% of its generation from wind, and Germany, which generates almost 33% from renewable energy, have the highest electricity bills in Europe, paying about US$0.39/KW-hr because of their support for ‘green energy’. The IER claims these policies have not provided them with the environmental benefits they expected. As a result, these countries are now backing away from green energy. Denmark, for example, is reducing its spending on research for ‘green energy’ by 67%.

Great Britain has also reduced its subsidies for solar power, and is considering an end to its carbon tax, because industry is now threatening to leave the country due to escalating energy costs. The country is cutting subsidies and other market manipulations in order to protect consumers and industry from expensive energy bills, which were about 54% higher than US energy bills in 2014. The energy taxes cost residents about US$6.6 billion each year. The subsidies and taxes are responsible for the expensive power, causing British industry and consumer groups to leave the country or lobby for relief. For example, a major British steel company indicated it was leaving the country due to expensive energy and carbon taxation, removing 40 000 jobs from the UK.

The IER has used Europe’s plan to use biofuels to decrease carbon dioxide emissions, which ended up increasing those emissions as an example of a failed European policy. The EU has been blending biofuel into conventional gasoline and diesel to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Its goal was to require biofuels to provide 10% of all fuel in Europe by 2020. A study by Transport & Environment has estimated that the continued use of biodiesel derived from vegetable oil will increase carbon dioxide emissions from transportation by nearly 4% compared to oil. They found, on average, biofuels from vegetable oil produce 80% more carbon dioxide emissions than the oil they replace, creating emissions equivalent to putting an extra 12 million cars on the road.

China: the largest carbon dioxide emitter

The following chart shows the largest producers of energy related carbon dioxide emissions in 2015, based on their share of global energy related CO2 emissions. China was the largest emitter of energy related carbon dioxide, accounting for 28% of global CO2 emissions in 2015. China intends to increase its carbon dioxide emissions through 2030 as it continues to grow its economy and to provide electric power to its citizens. India, the third largest carbon dioxide emitter, is also planning to increase its carbon dioxide emissions as it employs the use of coal to grow its economy. This is in order to reduce poverty in the country and provide a cost effective way to provide electricity to its citizens. India’s goal is to produce 1.5 billion t of coal by 2020, making it the second largest coal producer in the world.

According to the IER, despite the large reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the US due to the greater use of natural gas, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed regulations to lower methane emissions from oil and gas production, which it plans to finalise this spring. Last August, the EPA issued regulations targeting the oil and gas sector that would require the oil and gas industry to:

  • Find and repair leaks in new equipment.
  • Capture natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells.
  • Limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps on well pads.
  • Limit emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations.
  • Require gas wellheads that also produce oil to use ‘green completion’ technology.
  • Tighten restrictions for wellheads in ozone non-attainment areas.
  • Limit emissions from operations on American Indian lands.

According to Energy In Depth, lowering these emissions would only lower the global temperature by 0.0047°C by 2100, thus having little impact on global temperatures, but increasing the cost of natural gas to consumers.

The EPA is planning to regulate methane emissions from natural gas production despite their reductions. Since 2005, methane emissions declined 79% from hydraulically fractured wells and between 2005 - 2013, they declined 38% from natural gas production overall. These reductions in methane emissions have occurred despite natural gas production increasing by 50% between 2005 - 2015.

As carbon dioxide and methane emissions are implemented in the US, the IER claims Americans will pay more in the future for energy, while China and India will grow their economies and provide their citizens with reliable, cost effective power from coal.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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