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November 9, 2016

U.S. Carbon Emissions Down to 1991 Levels

By Merrill Matthews

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently announced that energy-related carbon emissions for the first six months of this year are down to their lowest level since 1991 - when there were about 60 million fewer Americans using energy. The EIA announcement backs up an earlier Environmental Protection Agency report.

While the 2007-09 recession and anemic economic growth since have been a factor in reduced emissions, the primary reason for the decline is a newly abundant supply of cheap natural gas, made possible by advances in innovative drilling techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling.

As a result, electrical power plants have been shifting from coal to natural gas, which produces the same amount of energy with about half of the carbon emissions.

Given the constant drumbeat from President Obama, environmental activists, and the media about the urgent need to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, you'd think they would be celebrating this success. But they haven't said a word because they want to keep alive the illusion of an imminent renewables revolution.

That "revolution" will likely be a very long way off.

Obama has been the country's greenest president. When he took office, his three favored renewables - wind, solar, and biomass - provided a paltry 3 to 4 percent of U.S. electricity needs. After nearly eight years these renewables' total has risen to only about 7 percent of power generation, according to the EIA.

That's woefully short of a plausible fossil-fuel replacement.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have been applauding European Union member country promises of steep reductions in carbon emissions. But guess what's actually been happening: As U.S. emissions have declined to a 25-year low, most European countries have been increasing emissions.

Eurostat, the official EU statistical office, notes, "CO2 emissions rose in 2015 in a majority of EU member states, with the highest increases being recorded in Slovakia (9.5 percent), Portugal (8.6 percent), and Hungary (6.7 percent), followed by Belgium (4.7 percent) and Bulgaria (4.6 percent). Decreases were registered in eight member states, notably in Malta (26.9 percent), Estonia (16.0 percent), Denmark (9.9 percent), Finland (7.4 percent), and Greece (5 percent)."

Among the big EU economies, the United Kingdom saw a decline, Germany broke even, and France, Spain, and Italy had increases.

The irony cannot be overstated. In 1997, EU countries were pushing for the adoption of the Kyoto protocol, which called for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent by 2012. The United States refused to join, yet it has reached the Kyoto goals, whereas most of its signatories have failed to do so.

Many EU countries have poured huge sums into renewable energy sources. Germany has almost become one big windmill. Yet the United States is doing a better job of reducing emissions simply by transitioning from coal to natural gas.

Ironically, several EU countries are moving away from nuclear energy and increasing their dependence on coal, but have generally shunned fracking technology that would increase access to cheap natural gas. The president of the International Gas Union lamented to the BBC last year that there would be no U.S.-style shale revolution in the EU. Indeed, Germany, Romania, and Bulgaria, have placed moratoriums on fracking.

Fortunately, the U.S. shift to natural gas isn't costing taxpayers a penny, which is a good thing given the billions of taxpayer dollars Obama has been funneling to his green-energy projects.

Natural-gas producers are private-sector companies that pay taxes and royalties. They have become so efficient at tapping natural gas that supply is abundant, keeping prices low, which means consumers have lower utility bills.

Environmentalists like to beat up on the United States for being the second-largest carbon emitter, but America is reducing carbon emissions. That's a huge success story. Too bad the president and the media will never tell it.


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