The 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 (see chart).
How can this be? We never ratified the Kyoto Treaty. We never adopted a 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. The EPA surely has started to strangle our domestic industries like coal and our electric utilities with strict emission standards. But that’s not the big story here.
The primary reason carbon emissions are falling is because of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. Now readers 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. School children 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 from coast to coast — California to upstate New York. Fracking produces massive amounts of natural gas, and as a consequence, natural gas prices have fallen in the last 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 IEA puts 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 has gotten this story completely wrong too. 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 argues, “GDP growth and carbon emissions have been decoupled.” The Times pretends that this is because of green energy, but that’s a fantasy. Wind and solar still account for only a microscopic 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 — we have several hundred years worth of natural gas. 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 an economic consultant at Freedom Works. His new book Fueling Freedom: The Mad War Against Energy, will be released by Regnery in May.