Carbon Emissions Flattening Out Globally, Thanks to Our Fracking

Tom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Carbon emissions have failed to grow, despite significant growth in the global economy. Natural gas, that is fracking, here in the U.S. was a huge help.

The International Energy Agency is out with a new report demonstrating it is the growth in our natural gas use, brought about by fracking, that has allowed us to make up for growing carbon emissions elsewhere in the world. We are, moreover, doing it at the same time we’re lowering energy costs and experiencing unparalleled economic growth. What can’t natural gas do?

Carbon Emissions

Source: International Energy Agency

The International Energy Agency’s report, no particular friend of oil and gas, offers some stunning data on carbon emissions:

  • Global energy-related CO2 emissions flattened in 2019 at around 33 gigatonnes (Gt), following two years of increases.
  • Economic growth in advanced economies averaged 1.7% in 2019, but total energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 3.2%.
  • The power sector led the decline and now accounts for 36% of energy-related emissions across advanced economies, down from a high of 42% in 2012.
  • The average CO2 emissions intensity of electricity generation declined by nearly 6.5% in 2019, a rate three times faster than the average over the past decade.
  • In absolute terms, an average emissions intensity of 340 grams of COper kilowatt hour in 2019 is lower than all but the most efficient gas-fired power plants. [meaning, of course, the fastest and most economical way to achieve more progress on carbon emissions is more natural gas substitution for coal and oil in power generation.]
  • Coal-to-gas fuel switching for power generation avoided 100 Mt of CO2 in advanced economies and was particularly strong in the United States due to record low natural gas prices.
  • The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt. US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.
  • A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019. Coal-fired power plants faced even stronger competition from natural gas-fired generation, with benchmark gas prices an average of 45% lower than 2018 levels. As a result, gas increased its share in electricity generation to a record high of 37%.

I red-lined the part about the U.S. contribution because it’s easy to miss in the report and the litany of achievements. We are leading the way because we have led on natural gas, having embraced fracking. No one has done more than us to reduce carbon emissions and it’s happened because of fracking. It’s that simple.

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