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“Installation of new renewable energy facilities has now all but dried up, unable to compete on a grid now flooded with a low-cost, high-energy fuel,” two experts from Colorado’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute said in an essay posted this week on Environment360, a Yale University website.

How much further the shift from coal to natural gas can go is unclear. Bentek says that power companies plan to retire 175 coal-fired plants over the next five years. That could bring coal’s CO2 emissions down to 1980 levels. However, the EIA predicts prices of natural gas will start to rise a bit next year, and then more about eight years from now.

Despite unanswered questions about the environmental effects of drilling, the gas boom “is actually one of a number of reasons for cautious optimism,” Mann said. “There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there. It is important to point out that there is still time” to address global warning.

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Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington and Jonathan Fahey in New York contributed to this story.

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Online:

U.S. Energy Information Agency: http://bit.ly/MRLOFR

Environment360: http://bit.ly/Qu8ebk