American leadership in the fight against global warming is crucial. America is the world’s largest economy, the second-largest emitter of global warming pollution, and the nation responsible for more of the human-caused carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere than any other. Without prompt action by the United States and others to reduce global warming pollution, catastrophic impacts – from coastal flooding to food system disruptions – could become unavoidable.
Fortunately, even in the absence of a comprehensive response from the U.S. Congress, local and state governments and the Obama administration have taken leadership on global warming. State and federal leadership on global warming is already having a significant impact. A set of clean energy policies adopted by states and the federal government and in effect from 2007 to 2012 reduced U.S. carbon dioxide pollution by 162 million metric tons in 2012. That is equal to annual emissions from 34 million vehicles, or all the passenger cars and trucks in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Colorado combined. Those emission savings will grow in future years as the policies mature and more ambitious clean energy targets come into effect.
Over the past decade, the oil and gas industry has fused two technologies—hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—in a highly polluting effort to unlock oil and gas in underground rock formations across the United States.
As fracking expands rapidly across the country, there are a growing number of documented cases of drinking water contamination and illness among nearby residents. Yet it has often been difficult for the public to grasp the scale and scope of these and other fracking threats. Fracking is already underway in 17 states, with more than 80,000 wells drilled or permitted since 2005. Moreover, the oil and gas industry is aggressively seeking to expand fracking to new states—from New York to California to North Carolina—and to areas that provide drinking water to millions of Americans.
This report seeks to quantify some of the key impacts of fracking to date—including the production of toxic wastewater, water use, chemicals use, air pollution, land damage and global warming emissions.
America’s power plants are among the most significant sources of carbon dioxide pollution in the world. The 50 most-polluting U.S. power plants emit more than 2 percent of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide pollution – or more pollution than every nation except six worldwide.
Environment America Research & Policy Center
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