Thanks Fracking: Carbon Emissions Hit 20 Year Low Thanks To Private Sector Innovation


“Market forces, not government action, made this happen,” writes Professor Mark Perry. I’m still skeptical that carbon emissions are anything like the environmental threat some alarmists have told us they are, but for what it’s worth, thanks to advancements in the energy sector made possible by fracking (among other things) US carbon emissions are at a 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.

That last is bunk. The public cares about cheap more than they care about clean. Which isn’t to say that coal and other fossil fuel energies were as dirty as some made them out to be. Only that I don’t believe Americans were ever won over by the arguments of the global warming alarmists, and the rise of natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal has more to do with economics than environmental politics.

“[T]here has hardly ever been a time in the conduct of human affairs when cheapness didn’t triumph,” wrote Bill Bryson in his excellent At Home.

This is true in energy the same as anywhere else.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Dr_Michael_Savage

    Except of course we’re all part of the life cycle on earth so we’re all carbon neutral. We eat carbon, take in oxygen, combine it with carbon, breath it out, and plants take it back in, give us back the oxygen and keep the carbon, eat the plants and repeat. When you dig up million year old carbon, and burn it, you are then introducing more carbon into the environment than can be absorbed by the life cycle, which in turn causes increases in temperatures.

    Based on our current plateauing it’s possible that we have maxed out those effects and perhaps things aren’t as dire as some scientists believe. However the fact that it COULD become dire means that it makes more sense to try and smartly reduce emissions as quickly as we can, while taking into account the economy and not reducing the living standards of humans as much as possible.

    The other important fact to consider is that carbon fuels are non-renewable, we will run out. So we need to get solar working for that reason as well. We are making strides in that industry and most experts in the field believe that we can replace oil and coal within the next 20 years with a combination of solar, wind and geothermal technologies.

    Fracking will have to be a necessary evil to get us there with natural gas, but we shouldn’t pretend that it doesn’t have serious environmental effects, or deny that the environment is important. This line of reasoning only serves the interests of large corporations who pollute to increase profits, not sustain the living standards of their workers.

    And can we please stop baselessly asserting intelligence deficiencies of our fellow humans when we could be having constructive conversations.