It’s not easy being green. Environmentalists must not only take a stand for a cleaner and colder planet, but must embrace contradiction with the enthusiasm of a Zen master. Supporting renewable energy means setting up enormous bird-slicing windmills and insect-frying solar panels. It means celebrating natural gas, which leftists just can’t bring themselves to do.
The Environmental Protection Agency reported in April that America’s “greenhouse-gas” emissions — carbon dioxide and methane, primarily — fell 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. For those who fear CO2 — the gas that makes flowers bloom and plants grow — this ought to be cause for breaking out the champagne. Except, it’s not. The spoilsports of the left refuse to raise a glass of bubbly to natural gas.
America’s recent energy renaissance is the leading cause of what the rest of us see as good news. “The decrease [in CO2] from 2011 to 2012 was due to a decrease in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed by power producers to generate electricity due to a decrease in the price of natural gas,” the EPA concedes.
None of this would have been possible without natural-gas extraction. Techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as well as horizontal drilling, have unlocked enormous stores of natural gas from native shale rock. Shale-gas production expanded more than eightfold between 2007 and 2012, vaulting America into the lead as the world’s top producer of the energy resource. Indeed, America is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.
Instead of embracing an affordable fuel that produces less carbon dioxide than a pack of hyperventilating environmental activists, “progressives” have declared natural gas an enemy and blaming it for every ill from water contamination to cancer. In a recent debate in Colorado, one activist even compared fracking to slavery.
The scary tales were debunked in a Department of Energy report last year that found no evidence that fracking contaminated the water at a western Pennsylvania drilling site. Even Lisa P. Jackson, at the time President Obama’s EPA administrator, told a Senate committee in 2011 that she’s “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
Facts haven’t discouraged some policymakers from pandering to the anti-fracking fringe. Last month, an attempt to impose a statewide moratorium on fracking in California failed on a razor-thin 16-16 tie vote in the state Senate. On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the collection of signatures to put measures on the November ballot to enable cities to ban fracking.
Enabling the “not in my backyard” crowd to plug gas wells or decide which techniques should and should not be used would destroy one of the handful of industries prospering in a bleak economy. The domestic energy boom was responsible for 2.1 million jobs in 2012, according to consulting firm IHS CERA, and an additional 1.4 million are expected within the next few decades.
Cheaper natural gas drives down the cost of utilities, putting an average of $1,200 back into the pockets of each American household. If lower carbon-dioxide emissions, more jobs and easing the financial burden on low-income families isn’t the goal of the left, what is?
Those who call themselves “progressives” aren’t so much interested in achieving goals as in imposing unreasonable solutions. They want to ban fracking and set up windmills not because they’re better for the environment, but because they’re “solutions” that empower more government. That’s why environmentalists are the leading cause of warming the globe.