Increased natural gas consumption helped bring down U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, according to a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Chances are you haven't heard. That's because the mainstream media and environmentalists insist on condemning the Trump administration for championing fossil fuels even though the United States is doing a better job at reducing emissions than many other countries that signed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The public can credit much of this success to the fracking boom, which has made natural gas much more plentiful. Cheap, abundant natural gas has gradually been displacing coal, which emits about twice as much carbon dioxide. A recent Rhodium Group study found that coal-fired power generation dropped by 18% last year, the lowest level since 1975.
The media rarely report such positive developments. They prefer to focus on things like the Climate Action Tracker, a tool funded by three climate research organizations to chart emissions reductions in 32 countries.
CAT ranks countries based on compliance with the Paris Agreement, from which the U.S. began its withdrawal last year. CAT ranks the U.S. "critically insufficient" when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. But we aren’t the only ones receiving bad marks. According to CAT, only two countries (Morocco and Gambia) are "Paris Agreement Compatible." Six others were rated only “Compatible.” Not one of those eight is a developed economy.
One of the problems with such assessments is that they fail to account for important differences between the countries it ranks. For instance, the U.S. is the third-largest country in the world by geographic size and has the third-largest population in the world. Only Russia and Canada are geographically larger, but both have much smaller populations.
In theory, smaller countries, many of which are able to rely on public transportation in urban areas, should have fewer problems reducing emissions. And while most larger U.S. cities have some form of public transportation, there are vast swaths of the country where the population is too thin to make public transportation practical. People have no other option than to drive.
Regardless of what the critics say, the U.S. is still making significant reductions in carbon emissions. After dropping by more than 2% in 2019, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to drop by 2% again in 2020 and by 1.5% in 2021, according to the EIA. If the agency is correct, then in 2021, emissions will be at their lowest since 1991 — even though we'll have a much larger population and economy than we did 30 years ago.
It's possible that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have peaked and will trend downward for years to come. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped 12% between 2005 and 2017, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The center suggests that by 2025, emissions could drop up to 18% below 2005 levels.
Other countries could soon post gains like this as the U.S. continues exporting liquefied natural gas around the world. These exports are poised to help many countries, including China, pivot away from coal and reduce their energy-related carbon emissions.
U.S. emissions reductions rarely make headlines. But that doesn't change the fact that natural gas is helping clean up our environment.