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Shale use lowers US emissions

World Coal,

According to the International Energy Association’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2011, global CO2 emission reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (GT) in 2011, representing a 3.2% or 1.0 GT increase on the total figure form 2010. Coal accounted for 45% of emission with natural gas accounting for 20% and oil for 35%.

In the USA in 2011 though emissions actually fell by 92 million tonnes (1.7%). This decrease in emissions is down the to the switch from using coal to generate electricity, to using natural gas derived from shale. The mild winter also helped to reduce domestic heating usage.

Shale derived natural gas produces significantly less CO2 emissions than coal. The USA is currently estimated to have the worlds largest reserves of natural gas; this is a new development and brought about by the new found ability to commercially exploit shale reserves.

The new supplies of natural gas have brought down natural gas prices to a 10-year low, with this relative glut of cheap gas available, lots of power plants are very keen to switch over to natural gas; US DOE figures show that over the last year the volume of electricity generated from natural gas has increased by 38%.

The data shows that US emissions have actually dropped by 430 million tonnes (7.7%) since 2006, which is the biggest drop of all countries included in the data.

There are other factors at play too which have contributed to this large drop including reduced oil use for transport, this is probably down to increased engine efficiency, higher prices and the economic downturn.

Written by Peter Farrell.

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