Shale gas benefits called into question

Financial Times FT.com 29 October 2012.

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By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent

The US shale gas boom is not curbing global greenhouse gas emissions as much as some of its proponents claim, according to a study by British climate change researchers.

The reason is that although the so-called shale revolution has led to the US burning less coal, a far dirtier fossil fuel than natural gas, more American coal is being exported, so the overall benefits of switching fuels is not so great.

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The report says that without a cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas reserves is likely to increase total emissions.

“For this not to be the case, consumption of displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely; in effect displaced coal must stay in the ground. The availability of shale gas does not guarantee this,” it says…

(Editor’s note: The same logic would apply to South Africa – unless we leave the coal in the ground, switching away from coal for energy in South Africa will not reduce global CO2 emissions, although it will help reduce local pollution through particulates and SOx and NOx. A global carbon tax would hit our coal mining industry through border taxes on coal exports – we had better start diversifying now!)

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