- Journal Article
Abstract: The shale gas boom in the U.S. has lowered the U.S. CO2 emissions in recent years mainly through substitution of gas for coal in power generation. Will the shale gas boom reduce the emissions in the long-run as well?
To study this, we consider a counterfactual without the shale gas boom based on a general equilibrium modeling for the 2011 U.S. economy. To enhance the power sector modeling, the supply responses of coal-fired and gas-fired generations are calibrated to existing research. We find that if gas prices remain at 2007 levels in 2011, only a model setting that allows very little reduction in electricity demand, reflecting a short-run demand response, generates an increase in economy-wide emissions. For all other cases, the higher gas price under the counterfactual will have a dampening effect on economic activities and consequently lowers economy-wide emissions, even though the power sector emissions may increase due to the gas-to-coal switch.
In other words, without any policy intervention, although the shale gas boom could reduce emissions in the short run, it may lead to higher emissions in the long run if the low gas prices persist. Our finding suggests that extrapolating the current decline in emissions due to the shale gas boom to the distant future could be misleading. Instead, if curbing emissions is the goal, rather than depending upon the cheap gas, policies and measures for cutting emissions remain imperative.