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Frack Baby Frack
Shale Driving Green Growth, Visualized


America’s energy-related carbon emissions have fallen 12 percent, according to numbers provided by the Energy Information Administration. As you can see above, it hasn’t been an entirely smooth transition, but it’s clear that the United States is emitting significantly less greenhouse gases (GHGs) as a result of its energy consumption. So what happened? Here’s a hint—it rhymes with hale. The EIA reports:

Energy-related CO2 emissions can be reduced by consuming less petroleum, coal, and natural gas, or by switching from more carbon-intensive fuels to less carbon-intensive fuels. Many of the changes in energy-related CO2 emissions in recent history have occurred in the electric power sector because of the decreased use of coal and the increased use of natural gas for electricity generation.

More than two-thirds of this reduction in energy emissions that we’ve seen over the past decade has occurred at power plants, and most of these emissions savings have come as a result of natural gas displacing coal as the country’s single most important power generation source. This, of course, is a direct result of the shale revolution, which has unleashed huge quantities of domestically sourced natural gas, making that hydrocarbon a downright bargain. Natural gas is outcompeting coal on price, and it’s doing so while emitting just half of the GHGs as coal—hence the downward slope of our energy-related emissions.

But while we can see a line of best fit would creep lower in the graph above, you’ll have noticed large variance in month-to-month emissions. Much of this comes from weather, as a large number of too-hot or too-cold days will lead to increased energy consumption (and therefore emissions) as people temperature-regulate their homes. The overall health of the economy also has a bearing on these numbers, which helps explain the precipitous drop in 2008 and early 2009. Over these past ten years, however, the American economy has grown, making these energy-related emissions reductions all the more impressive. The EIA continues:

Adjusted for inflation, the economy in 2015 was 15% larger than it was in 2005, but the U.S. energy intensities and carbon intensities have both declined. On a per-dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) basis, in 2015, the United States used 15% less energy per unit of GDP and produced 23% fewer energy-related CO2 emissions per unit of GDP, compared with the energy and emissions per dollar of GDP in 2005.

This is what green growth looks like. Too many environmentalists are stuck in an archaic and self defeating line of thinking that holds that growth and green progress are mutually exclusive. As we can see, they’re not, and we can expect an even wider divergence between GDP and emissions (a phenomenon called “decoupling“) as the American economy continues to move away from the energy- and carbon-intensive manipulation of “stuff” to the much more efficient and green manipulation of information.

And along the way, let’s not forget to give fracking the eco-credit it so richly deserves.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Has any other country done as much?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “Global Warming” is BS, 19 years and counting without any increase in Global Temperature.
    The historical record over the last few million years is of Plant starvation for Carbon Dioxide. 20% of the Earth’s crust is made up of sequestered Carbon, from when life first began 3.5 billion years ago. At that time, Earth’s atmosphere was like Venus or Mars having formed from the same dust cloud at 95%+ Carbon Dioxide. Living organisms and chemical processes turned all that Carbon Dioxide into carbonates like Limestone and hydrocarbons like oil trapped in the Earth’s crust.
    Until mankind began releasing more Carbon Dioxide, Plants were surviving on a starvation diet of 285 ppm Carbon Dioxide. If the sequestration had continued at previous rates, Plants would have eventually starved to death, and all plant dependent animal life with them. Now with 400+ ppm Carbon Dioxide, Plants are growing 15% more, are more water tolerant, and the Planet is turning green as deserts shrink. Plants being the bottom of the food chain, this means there’s 15% more life of all kinds, including farm production.

  • Blackbeard

    Anyone who imagines that data like this will have any effect on Green efforts to ban fracking, nuclear power and hydropower is dreaming. Europe has followed the policies the Greens like and their CO2 emissions are up while ours are down. And power costs have soared in Europe. Has this had any effect on the Greens (and the Democrats) poilcy preferences? None.

    • JR

      But if Greens and Democrats use data instead of feels, how are they supposed to signal Leftwing virtue to each other?

    • Gary Hemminger

      You are absolutely correct Blackbeard. the Greens are whacko’s who have no connection to reality. they need to save the Earth and the only way to save it is to ban any fossil fuels. I just wish they would practice what they preach and use no fossil fuels themselves. But they won’t do that. They want everyone else to stop, but they make an exception for themselves. Because they are our saviors, so they must have the ability to burn dirty fuel but ban it for everyone else. What a bunch of hypocrites.

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