In 2018, global energy demand grew at its fastest pace in nearly a decade — roughly two times as fast as the average growth rate since 2010.
The challenge facing the world today is to meet this growing demand in an affordable, reliable and cleaner fashion. There is one nation uniquely situated to do all three: the United States.
Our technology and our environmental laws are among the strongest and most advanced in the world. That is why from 2007 through May of this year (the most recent data available), average monthly U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions decreased by nearly 13 percent (a reduction of over seven-and-a-half billion metric tons over that time) — even as United States energy production increased. Global energy-related CO2 emissions, in comparison, increased roughly 15 percent.
And there’s more: Since 1990, total methane emissions from natural gas systems have fallen 18 percent while production has increased 55 percent. From 1990 to 2018, annual emissions of sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants fell by over 90 percent while emissions of nitrogen oxides fell by over 80 percent. And in the past decade alone, mercury emissions from power plants have decreased by nearly 90 percent.
The United States is now the number one oil and gas producer in the world. Yet, our air continues to get cleaner. From 1970 to 2018, the combined emissions of the six criteria pollutants dropped 74 percent (and emissions of all criteria pollutants continued to decline from 2016 to 2018). According to World Health Organization data, the United States has some of the lowest fine particulate matter levels in the world, more than five times below the global average, seven times below Chinese levels, and well below France, Germany, Mexico and Russia.
When it comes to supplying affordable and reliable energy in a manner that protects human health and the environment, the United States is the standard-bearer.
Those who oppose U.S. energy production, particularly fossil fuel production, are actually taking one of the most environmentally preferable energy sources off the table for the rest of the world.
We can’t deny that fossil fuels will continue to be an integral part of the world’s energy needs. Fossil fuels met nearly 70 percent of the global increase in energy demand; renewables were about 25 percent.
Rather than turning our back on our own resources and yielding the marketplace to China or Russia, we should want cleaner, more reliable American coal, oil and natural gas to power more homes and businesses throughout the world.
This is precisely what President Trump and his Administration are focused on.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently took action to accelerate the construction of pipelines and other important energy infrastructure projects. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act gives states a say in federally approved projects that would impact state water resources. Many states implement Section 401 faithfully. However, some do not. Some use it to kill projects altogether — and sometimes for reasons totally unrelated to water quality. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used it to veto an important natural gas pipeline, for example. We issued a proposal to prevent state leaders from misusing their Section 401 authority to block critically important infrastructure.
We’re also lifting duplicative and unnecessary regulatory burdens off the backs of America’s energy producers through our recent methane rule. The previous administration imposed methane regulations that we believe are duplicative, unnecessary and not appropriate under the Clean Air Act.
Finally, our Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule puts an end to the job-killing Clean Power Plan. We are regulating CO2 emissions from the electric power sector in a manner that upholds the law and the relevant Supreme Court decisions and does not stifle innovation.
Coal use is rising worldwide, driven in large part by India, China and other Asian nations. Rather than punishing the United States’ production of coal, the ACE rule levels the playing field and encourages the development of cleaner technologies across the sector. These technologies can then be exported to other countries to improve the worldwide environment.
The world is using more energy. And someone is going to supply it. It could be China; it could be Russia; or it could be the United States — the cleaner, more reliable source.
If we truly care about improving lives and improving environmental outcomes, we should be strengthening domestic production and exporting American energy and cleaner technologies far and wide. That is what President Trump is doing. Under his watch, the United States became a net exporter of natural gas for the first time in nearly 60 years.
This progress will continue, and the world will be better for it.
Andrew R. Wheeler is the 15th Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.