The United States has emitted less carbon through June of this year than at any other point in the past 25 years. The EIA reports:
U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions totaled 2,530 million metric tons in the first six months of 2016. This was the lowest emissions level for the first six months of the year since 1991, as mild weather and changes in the fuels used to generate electricity contributed to the decline in energy-related emissions. EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook projects that energy-associated CO2 emissions will fall to 5,179 million metric tons in 2016, the lowest annual level since 1992. […]Coal and natural gas consumption each decreased compared to the first six months of 2015. However, the decrease was greater for coal, which generates more carbon emissions when burned than natural gas. Coal consumption fell 18%, while natural gas consumption fell 1%. These declines more than offset a 1% increase in total petroleum consumption, which rose during that period as a result of low gasoline prices.
The EIA wants to credit the growth of renewables like wind and solar for part of this historic decline in energy-related emissions, and while they undoubtedly played a part, it was a minor one. Let’s keep in mind that renewable energy sources accounted for less than 11 percent of our energy consumption in June of this year, a far cry from fossil fuels, which were responsible for more than 80 percent of our overall consumption.No, it was coal’s sharp decline—a drop of 18 percent in the first half of this year as compared to 2015—that really moved the needle on America’s energy emissions. And let’s not forget that Old King Coal isn’t being dethroned by onerous regulations, but rather by market forces. More specifically, coal’s demise has been precipitated by the sudden rise in domestic natural gas production that has led to an oversupply (and, as a result bargain prices). This, of course, comes to us courtesy of the great shale revolution.The next time you hear an environmentalist bemoaning the devilish ways of American frackers, remind them that shale gas is one of the very few climate change solutions that doesn’t involve donning an economic hair shirt. We’re growing, green.