Carpe Diem

Thanks to natural gas, market forces, technology, and private sector activity, C02 emissions drop to a 20-year low

From the Associated Press comes this story “CO2 Emissions In US Drop To 20-Year Low“:

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for “cautious optimism” about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that “ultimately people follow their wallets” on global warming.

“There’s a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado.

In a little-noticed technical report, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said this month that energy related U.S. CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels (see chart above). Energy emissions make up about 98 percent of the total. The Associated Press contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.

While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.

The International Energy Agency said the U.S. has cut carbon dioxide emissions more than any other country over the last six years. Total U.S. carbon emissions from energy consumption peaked at about 6 billion metric tons in 2007. Projections for this year are around 5.2 billion, and the 1990 figure was about 5 billion.

MP: Unlike renewable energies like solar and wind that reduce carbon emissions but are uneconomical even with billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars, the shale gas revolution has made a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions to a 20-year low without the direct taxpayer subsidies and loans that have been directed to renewables like solar. And it wasn’t even part of any intentional energy policy from Washington or any regulatory directive from the EPA.  As the article points out, it was market forces and private sector activity, not government policies, that brought CO2 emissions down to 1992 levels.  Another great example of how society is “cleaned by capitalism.”

Welcome to the shale gas revolution.

2 thoughts on “Thanks to natural gas, market forces, technology, and private sector activity, C02 emissions drop to a 20-year low

  1. This news will be very alarming to the climate change hysteria lobby, threatening to interfere with their political agenda and worse, their financial interests (the carbon offset industries of Al Gore and their other major backers). As a result, expect to see a major ratcheting up of the “green” anti-fracking campaign, in order to get that CO2 production back up, to keep the hysteria going strong.

  2. The domestic shale revolution, both in oil and gas, also has made it abundantly clear that the central premise of most energy policy in the US for the last 40 years — namely that we are running out of conventional fuels and growing dangerously reliant on foreign sources — has now been turned on its head. That leaves the CO2-Climate Change linkage as the only way for the green lobby and its allies in Washington to continue to demonize fossil fuels and support huge subsidies for renewables. If that prop is gone, it may be time for government officials to re-examine old assumptions and move away from anachronistic policies such as renewable energy portfolios, wind subsidies and ethanol mandates.

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