By Ari Phillips

Even before President-elect Donald Trump lined his Cabinet with some of the most pro-fossil fuel ornaments money can buy, natural gas was here to stay. And now, thanks to advances in drilling technology—i.e. hydraulic fracturing—over the last decade, natural gas is poised to start beating coal at its own game: Generating electricity in the United States.

According to a recent Energy Outlook report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2016 is forecast to be the first year that natural gas-fired power generation exceeds coal generation on an annual basis (having first surpassed it on a monthly basis in 2015). Beginning in 2009 the gap between gas and coal prices started to narrow due to the large amounts of natural gas being produced from shale. From 2000 to 2008, coal was significantly cheaper than natural gas and supplied almost half of U.S. power generation. By 2015, coal and gas each provided about one-third of all electricity generation.

This is a monumental shift, as coal has provided the bulk of U.S. power supply for decades…
…Fracking isn’t only a symphony of noises, but also a symphony of local impacts, and a new study out of the University of Chicago compares these costs and benefits in nine different shale regions across the country.

The study found that while local economic benefits such as increased average income, increased employment, and increased housing prices are significant, there are also a number of costs. These include increased truck traffic, more noise and air pollution, and higher rates of crime. The slightly elevated crime rates were the most directly measurable cost in the analysis, and are a concern even as local governments have allocated around 20% more funds to improve public safety. In one extreme example of this, parts of North Dakota saw such a surge in criminal activity after the state’s recent fossil fuel boom that lawmakers’ and local officials’ called for more FBI presence.

Continue reading at Fusion…

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Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
Definition
Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Fossil Fuels
Definition
Fossil Fuels
Under current policies, fossil fuels will play an important role in the energy system for the foreseeable future. EPIC research is exploring the costs and benefits of these fuels as...
Hydraulic Fracturing
Definition
Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing is perhaps the most important innovation in the energy system in the last half century, but nearby communities are concerned about its potential effects on water quality, public...