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Friday, February 22, 2013

Cheap natgas displacing nukes, raising CO2 emissions

U. S. emissions of carbon dioxide have fallen dramatically - since 2007, they've plummeted 13% and are back to 1994 levels - in significant part due to cheap shale gas.

But as I wrote here, this development, while positive, is not necessarily sustainable for at least five reasons.

Now let’s add reason number six.

Cheap shale gas is elbowing out carbon-free nuclear power in the U.S.. Since 2010, the amount of electricity generated from America’s nuclear reactors has fallen about 3 percent.  Gas-fired power is replacing it.  While gas-fired power is 50% cleaner than coal-fired power, it's a long way from zero emissions – though it could come close with CCS.  But the net result is that displacement of nukes by gas generation pushes us further away from the emissions reductions that we fail to make at our peril.

The market will not guide us to climate safety.  There is simply no substitute for an aggressive federal climate policy.

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