Energy

Here’s How Fracking Bailed Out California’s Global Warming Goals

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas is responsible for California’s ability to keep electricity prices relatively low while meeting its global warming goals, according to statistical analysis published in Forbes Monday.

The analysis concludes that fracking “cushioned the blow of shifting to higher cost and more intermittent sources of renewable energy” and saved the state from an enormous increase in power prices. Forbes estimates that fracking caused electricity prices in California to fall by 70 percent since 2005. Without the fracking boom, Forbes estimates that the price of electricity would have increased by 26 percent in California since 2005.

Fracking has allowed California to keep prices relatively low while meeting global warming goals, but the state still has some of the most expensive electricity in the country. The state pays an annual averaged 14.3 cents per kilowatt house, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The national average is 10.1 cents.

Despite the bailout from fracking and massive amounts of taxpayer cash poured into wind and solar power, California has been much slower to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than other large states. Texas and Georgia, for example, turned to natural gas much quicker than the Golden State, and saw much larger declines in their CO2 emissions as a result.

Fracking helps California meet its commitments under the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act, which committed the state to sharp cuts in CO2 emissions. The same year, the state adopted another law that began effectively phasing out coal-fired power plants. These bills were supposed to reduce CO2 by the state’s utilities and supporters even claimed switching over to wind and solar power wouldn’t cost consumers a dime.

At the time, California was deeply dependent on natural gas and the government had predicted that the state would be forced to import enormous quantities of foreign natural gas just to keep the lights on.

Studies show that fracking for natural gas is responsible for almost 20 percent of falling CO2 emissions nationally, while the solar power California encouraged is responsible for a mere 1 percent of the decline. For every ton of CO2 cut by solar power, fracking cut 13 tons.

Natural gas-fired power plants emit far less CO2 than conventional coal power. The switch from coal to natural gas caused carbon dioxide emissions to drop sharply in 47 states and Washington, D.C. according to both Scientific American and the EIA.

Most of the progressive politicians who originally attempted to decrease the state’s CO2 emissions remain vehemently opposed to fracking. Forbes points out that the politicians have already requested another $104 billion to build solar arrays, wind turbines, energy storage and new power lines to support green energy, which translates to a bill of roughly $11,000 for the average California family.

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