Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WSJ: U.S. carbon emissions fell in 2012, thanks to the oil and gas industry

Natural Decarbonation

U.S. carbon emissions fell in 2012, thanks to the oil and gas industry.

WSJ.COM 10/29/13: One of President Obama's steadfast second-term priorities is his regulatory "climate action plan." If the point is to reduce carbon emissions, the evidence suggests he'd accomplish more counting on capitalism.

The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported last week, to too little media fanfare, that U.S. energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions declined 3.8% in 2012, bringing C02 emissions to their lowest level since 1994. The only year since 1990 with a steeper decline was 2009 amid an economic recession. The 2012 decline occurred even as the economy grew 2.8%.

Much of the 2012 decline was due to a warm first quarter that reduced the use of heating fuels, as well as fewer transportation emissions, as Americans drove less and overall vehicle miles were flat compared to 2011.

More notable is that 2012 saw the largest drop in the overall "carbon intensity" of the economy since the feds began keeping records in 1949. The EIA reports that the boom in natural-gas production "substantially reduced the carbon intensity of electricity generation in 2012." The switch to natural gas, mainly from coal, was so substantial that the resulting CO2-emissions decreases offset what was an "overall decline" last year in renewable power generation.

The EIA report also cited such Administration policies as mandates for more fuel-efficient cars as contributing to the carbon decline. But those mandates played a token role in the overall reduction, though they have cost consumers in higher costs for vehicles.

If you're scoring at home, this means that the innovation of the private oil and gas industry in extracting natural gas from oil shale has done more to reduce CO2 emissions than have all of the Obama Administration's subsidies, mandates and crony-capitalist schemes for renewable energy.

Mr. Obama should say a prayer of thanks every day for the fracking and horizontal drilling revolutions, which have so far managed to avoid the crippling grasp of Washington regulators. If Mr. Obama is looking for a slogan for his "climate action plan," here's an idea: Keep on frackin'.

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