As the Obama Administration signs the Paris climate agreement this Earth Day, Americans can celebrate the fact that, without ratifying the Kyoto Protocol or adopting cap-and-trade, the United States is the only country in the world that has significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Why? Because of fracking and the increased use of natural gas.
President Obama said at the COP 21 conference in Paris,
“The advances we’ve made have helped drive out economic output to all-time highs, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes the reason for these reductions in its Fifth Assessment Report:
“[T]he rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal-drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply…is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”
Data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory show that the United States has reduced its CO2 emissions by 9 percent since 2005, largely due to “increased natural gas consumption and other generation sources.”
The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) recently found that “In the United States, emissions declined by 2% (in 2015), as a large switch…to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.” IEA also noted that global carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) stayed flat for the second year, and as IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said, “Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.”
According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), since 2005, natural gas has prevented more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted from power plants in the United States. Meanwhile, the use of renewable energy has prevented only 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) put it well when he said,
“You know we’ve been improving our emissions in this country without agreeing to the Kyoto Accord, without congressional actions, because of innovations in the natural gas area.”
From all of us at Energy In Depth: Happy Earth Day!