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December 15, 2009

XTO and Exxon

XTO has just been taken over by Exxon in an agreed bid. But I'm not sure that people have really understood what this means.

For example, it makes a great difference to those climate change talks going on in Copenhagen.

You see, XTO is the specialist in this new technique of extracting natural gas through fracking. This means that there's a huge amount more gas around than anyone thoguht only a couple of years ago. That in turn means that we can replace a lot of our current coal fired generating with gas fired: and halve carbon emissions in the process.

Now, if we can halve carbon emissions by building cheaper plants and using a less expoensive fuel, then this rather changes eeverything about climate change, doesn't it?

That's the basics of how the numbers for emissions which the climate scientists plug into their models are created. However, those emissions paths, the possible technologies, were created some years ago, back in the late 1990s in fact. And there are emissions paths where we begin to run out of oil and go back to using hugely more polluting coal. There are paths where we gradually and generally bring down our emissions.

But none of the paths includes the possibility that we use less coal and less oil and use more natural gas instead. For we didn't think there was any more natural gas that we could use. Remember here that natural gas has much lower emissions than either oil or coal. So much lower in fact that if we replaced coal fired power generation with gas fired generation we would be cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from this sector.

December 15, 2009 in Climate Change | Permalink


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