Carbon Emissions and Climate Change

carbon emissions

 

For a long, long time, it was the one thing on the mind of almost everyone across the country–and the world–almost endlessly. It spawned feature-length documentaries, endless scientific studies and debate after debate. The hole in the ozone was the paramount concern of environmentalists everywhere for years. And now the concern has seemingly disappeared as the hole is headed in a better direction thanks to huge action on the part of nations all over the world. Now, how will action taken to combat climate change affect the Earth?

 

The so called fracking boom in the United States has slowed as oil prices have dropped. In February of this year, it was reported that the number of natural gas rigs in the US has been dropping steadily for quite some time now. It’s been well-established by studies and backed by President Obama that natural gas has a smaller negative impact on our environment than oil and coal. So when the fracking boom reached its height, murmurs of the US’s energy independence began to grow louder. Talks of the relationship between less foreign dependence and lower carbon emissions have been abound, spurring headlines speaking to the possibility of imminent US energy independence.

 

But recent studies have indicated that mitigating climate change may not be quite as simple as gaining energy independence from other countries.

 

The study, published on June 7th from the Universiteit van Amsterdam is titled in fairly conclusive language, “Pursuing energy independence will hardly mitigate climate change.” According to Bob van der Zwaan, who is cited in the study, “This study refutes the idea that a policy focusing on energy independence more or less automatically results in sufficient reduction of greenhouse gases.”

 

The key, according to van der Zwaan, a professor of Sustainable Energy Technology at Universiteit van Amsterdam is reducing emissions as a whole. “In planning future energy systems, countries can best focus on technology that contributes to both emissions reductions and energy independence, although the emphasis should always be on technology lowering humankind’s carbon footprint.’”

 

In order to enact the level of change we saw with the ozone layer’s seeming reversal of fate a decade or so ago, larger-scale change will be necessary, more directly related to renewable energy. Natural gas, despite being better for the environment (perhaps “less bad” would be a better way of putting it) is still at its core a nonrenewable energy source. So while the US may lead all nations on Earth in terms of its natural gas usage, the nation ranks 10th in terms of renewable energy use.

 

The 14 percent of electricity that was generated by renewable sources in 2014 pales in comparison to countries like Scotland or Costa Rica whose 97 and 99 percent renewable sources rank them numbers three and two in the world. Sweden recently became the first fossil fuel independent nation recently, setting the bar high for the US.

 

Political leaders tend to be torn on the subject. Typically, those on the right tend to lean towards a reliance on fossil fuels, considering green energy to be a waste of time, money and effort on our behalf. Those on the left, in contrast, often put a higher priority in switching from fossil fuels to natural gas, then to completely green and renewable energy. Few from either side of the political spectrum, however, have concrete plans as to how our reliance on their energy-source of choice will be implemented, and how it will affect our planet.

 

How Fracking is Revolutionizing US Energy

A hot-button subject during presidential debates not only this primary season, but during every US election year in the last few centuries has been our dependance on foreign oil. This is, of course, because of the ever-fluctuating price of oil from Middle-East members of OPEC and our dependance as a nation on oil as an energy source. Now hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is taking the front seat as a debated subject and a means of self sufficiency for US energy.

By 1989, the United State’s dependence on foreign oil was at 47. By 2006, oil imports peaked at 60 percent. Since then, however, the United States has begun to slowly but surely wriggle free from the clutches of its dependance on foreign oil as a means of energy, capped off by President Obama’s pushes to “free ourselves from foreign oil” in 2012.

Currently, our dependance on foreign oils continues to drop since its peak in the mid 2000s. Partially to thank for this is fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing may be the answer to the United States becoming completely energy self-sufficient in the next few decades. The process is fairly straightforward and has been refined and improved over time, eventually rising to the point of being the most efficient means of collecting natural gas in existence.

To start the process, a large drill bores its way into the earth over a natural gas deposit. From there, a pressurized liquid is injected into the rock, fracturing it and allowing the natural gas contained within it to be released. Though the process started with mostly vertical drilling processes, recent exploration of horizontal drilling has allowed fracking to capture an even higher amount of natural gas, thereby increasing the overall productivity and efficiency of the project.

The liquid injected in the process involves several different agents, typically a mixture of sand, water and chemicals. The sand is useful in holding the fissures open after the pressure has been released, allowing more gas to leak out and be collected.

Fracking is hardly a new technology, as its roots can be traced back as far as the early 1900s. The first commercial fracking processes came into existence around 1940 and were explored and studied thoroughly. Despite getting its start decades ago, fracking has only in recent years become as efficient and widely-applicable as it is now.

High oil prices from Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC played a large part in the fracking boom in the US in recent years. Now, other parts of the world, including the UK are opening their collective minds to the idea of fracking as a means of switching to natural gas & self-sufficiency.

Recently, the process was approved in the UK for the first time since 2011. This may seem like small news to some, but it’s a key indicator that the world as a whole has taken notice of the advantages that fracking can have on a country, its economy and its efficiency.