Our Coming Electricity Crisis; A Precarious Case of Fracking Support

The Hill on public opinion of fracking, The Washington Post on the economic impact of the energy boom, Energy Biz on the coming electricity crisis, BBC on the question of human extinction, and CNN on our cleaner air, 

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The Hill on public opinion of fracking David Hill considers a recent Pew poll that asked Americans about their views toward hydraulic fracturing, which found that 48 percent supported it, against 38 percent who did not. That split is precarious, he writes: "Unless public opinion is managed with diligence, this support could wither. And the current level of support, short of a majority, is not necessarily strong enough to create a bandwagon effect that will help nudge those on the fence to come down on fracking's side. In short, support is fragile and in desperate need of shoring up by energy and fracking advocates." Regulation, he says, will be crucial to mustering more support: "The key items that should be on the energy industry’s to-do list are filling empty heads, self-policing of bad operators and focusing on state control of regulations on fracking."

The Washington Post on the economic impact of the energy boom "The U.S. economy has expanded 7.6 percent since the recession ended in 2009," begins Brad Plumer. "That’s better than Britain, Japan, the euro zone and many other advanced nations around the world. So why is that?" Plumer tackles the theory that increased production of oil and gas has helped the U.S. economy reap gains absent in other countries by reporting on paper by Capital Economics, a research firm. "Given that the oil- and gas-related sectors account for only 2.5% of GDP, they have contributed just 0.6 percentage points (ppts) to the 7.6% rise in GDP," the firm found. "That’s still significant (the reduction in imports alone have contributed 0.4 percentage points to growth)," Plumer says, "but it’s also relatively limited."

Energy Biz on the coming electricity crisis Renewable energy sources like solar power and wind turbines will likely upset the delicate electricity grid on which our lives depend, argues Davis Swan. "Over the past decade that balance has been disrupted by the introduction of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. These are both unreliable in the sense that it is not possible to match supply with demand, and highly variable due to passing of clouds in the case of solar or frontal weather systems for wind," he notes, adding, "As long as renewables made up a relatively small portion of total generation capacity the physical problems could be handled. But the economic issues are now coming to the fore as the development of renewables continues."

BBC on the question of human extinction Sean Coughlan grapples with a recent paper published by Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, concerning the fate of humanity — a rare topic of serious inquiry. ("Last year there were more academic papers published on snowboarding than human extinction," Coughlan observes.) "As a species we've already outlasted many thousands of years of disease, famine, flood, predators, persecution, earthquakes and environmental change ... Nuclear war might cause appalling destruction, but enough individuals could survive to allow the species to continue." It's highly possible, the paper argues, that our gravest threat will be invented by humans who inadvertently lose control of it. As one scientist studying existential threats told Coughlan, "This is the first century in the world's history when the biggest threat is from humanity."

CNN on our cleaner air After exploring, like us, the American Lung Association's annual report on air quality, Les Christie reports that while our air is getting cleaner, many Americans still deal with harmful pollution. "About 132 million people in the United States, or 42% of the country's population, live in counties that have unhealthy levels of at least one form of air pollution," he writes, referring to "short-term and year-round particle pollution, which includes dust, metals, smoke, exhaust and acids" and ozone, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels. He also notes that California stood out at a state, for good and bad reasons: "California has led the nation in implementing clean-air programs, but its cities still consistently have the most serious pollution. High population densities, a dry and sunny climate, and topography that traps air all frustrate progress."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.