The U.S. Department of Energy published data last week with some amazing revelations — so amazing that most Americans will find them hard to believe. As a nation, the United States reduced its carbon emissions by 2 percent from last year. Over the past 14 years, our carbon emissions are down more than 10 percent. On a per-unit-of-GDP basis, U.S. carbon emissions are down by closer to 20 percent.
Even more stunning: We’ve reduced our carbon emissions more than virtually any other nation in the world, including most of Europe.
How can this be? We never ratified the Kyoto Treaty. We never adopted a national cap-and-trade system, or a carbon tax, as so many of the sanctimonious Europeans have done.
The answer isn’t that the EPA has regulated CO2 out of the economy. With strict emission standards, the EPA surely has started to strangle our domestic industries, such as coal, and our electric utilities. But that’s not the big story here.
The primary reason carbon emissions are falling is because of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. Some readers now are probably thinking I’ve been drinking or have lost my mind. Fracking technology for shale oil and gas drilling is supposed to be evil. Some states have outlawed it. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out against it in recent weeks. Schoolchildren have been bombarded with green propaganda about all the catastrophic consequences of fracking.
They are mostly lies. Fracking is simply a new way to get at America’s vast storehouse of tens of trillions of dollars worth of shale oil and gas that lies beneath us, coast to coast — from California to upstate New York. Fracking produces massive amounts of natural gas, and, as a consequence, natural gas prices have fallen in the past decade from above $8 per million BTUs to closer to $2 this year — a 75 percent reduction — due to the spike in domestic supplies.
This free fall in prices means that America is using far more natural gas for heating and electricity and much less coal. Here is how the International Energy Agency put it: “In the United States, (carbon) emissions declined by 2 percent, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.”
It also observes that the decline “was offset by increasing emissions in most other Asian developing economies and the Middle East, and also a moderate increase in Europe.” We are growing faster than they are and reducing emissions more than they are, yet these are the nations that lecture us on polluting. Go figure.
Here at home, this market-driven transition has caused a pro-natural gas celebration by the green groups, right?
Hardly. Groups like the Sierra Club and their billionaire disciples have bet the farm on wind and solar power. They’ve launched anti-fracking campaigns and “beyond natural gas” advertising campaigns. But wind and solar are hopelessly uncompetitive when natural gas is so plentiful and so cheap. So are electric cars.
The media also have gotten this story completely wrong. Last week The New York Times celebrated the DOE’s emissions findings as evidence that governmental iron-fist policies are working to stop global warming. For the first time “since the start of the Industrial Revolution,” the Times argued, “GDP growth and carbon emissions have been decoupled.”
The Times pretends that this development is because of green energy, but that’s a fantasy. Wind and solar still account for only 3 percent of U.S. energy.
So here is the real story in a flash: Thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling technologies, we are producing more natural gas than ever before. Natural gas is a wonder fuel: It is cheap. It is abundant. America has more of it than anyone else — enough to last several hundred years. And it is clean-burning. Even Nancy Pelosi inadvertently admitted this several years ago before someone had to whisper in her ear that, um, natural gas is a fossil fuel.
Meanwhile, the left has declared war on a technology that has done more to reduce carbon emissions and real pollution emissions than all the green programs ever invented. Maybe the reason is that they aren’t so much against pollution as they are against progress.
Stephen Moore is a distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, economics contributor to FreedomWorks and author of “Who’s the Fairest of Them All?” To find out more about Stephen Moore and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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