Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Implications of the US being a Global Leader in Fossil Fuel Production

The US is expected to be the global leader in fossil fuel production by 2020. On November 12 the International Energy Agency (IEA) released the 2012 edition of its World Energy Outlook. The report indicated that this is being driven by advances in drilling technology, particularly hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and exploitation of the continent’s tar sands.

While there are many that hail this fact as desirable, it is anything but. Despite the fact that this will provide jobs and diminish reliance on foreign oil, it will also have a very destructive environmental impact. The upsurge in fossil fuels will radically increase the continents GHG emissions. It will also have a negative impact on the market driven growth of renewables. This excessive reliance on fossil fuels will impact the clean energy equation by adversely impacting investment in renewable energy.

There are many who are heralding this announcement as some form of victory. In its editorial on the IEA report, the Wall Street Journal ridiculed investment in renewable energy saying “Historians will one day marvel that so much political and financial capital was invested in a [failed] green-energy revolution at the very moment a fossil fuel revolution was aborning.”

The increased output and job creation is dwarfed by the harm that it will cause. Daniel J. Weiss of the Center for American Progress has warned of a growing threat to America’s water supply from poorly regulated fracking operations. “In addition, oil companies want to open up areas off the northern coast of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean, where they are not prepared to address a major oil blowout or spill like we had in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The production of US fossil fuels is expected to rise to 11 million barrels per day in 2025. The current trajectory of fossil fuel exploitation is a recipe for a world ravaged by climate change.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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