The Environmental Protection Agency still exists—though House Republicans have introduced a bill that would seek to change that, and President Trump is reportedly ready to sign executive orders to hamstring the agency’s climate change-related efforts—and it just released its annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report. The published information only runs through 2015, owing to the lag associated with such large data sets, but what we do know is, well, encouraging. The Hill reports:
[T]he EPA said total emissions of climate change-causing gases decreased in 2015 after back-to-back years of small growth. The report uses the most up-to-date data about greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA attributed the overall decline to lower carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, which itself came about because of less coal consumption in favor of natural gas, warmer winter weather that decreased heating fuel demand and lower electricity demand overall.
A 2.2 percent annual decrease in overall GHG emissions is no small feat, and it will obviously be received as good news by environmentalists around the country. But before those greens despair that now, without Obama, those emissions are going to spike again, let’s consider that it was a shift in fossil fuels—not renewables—that was responsible for the majority of these reductions. Specifically, it was the ongoing displacement of coal-fired power plants by natural gas-fired ones that did the heavy lifting for American climate change mitigation in 2015.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions hit a 25-year low over the first six months of 2016, continuing the progress that the EPA says we made in 2015. In both cases, the drop in emissions was largely put down to a decline in coal usage (coal is the dirtiest and highest-emitting fossil fuel). Interestingly, it was cheap shale gas and not President Obama’s Clean Power Plan that dethroned Old King Coal.
That’s why fracking should be considered green, and it’s also why we shouldn’t expect Donald Trump to increase our overall emissions. Trump is fracking friendly, and as many times as he promised to revive the coal industry during his campaign, he won’t rein in the shale boom just to make coal country happy. The oil and gas that revolution is unleashing is just too important to our energy security and the U.S. economy to ignore.
Trump, like Obama, will work hard to create an environment in which our shale industry can flourish, and in so doing he’ll not just be shoring up our domestic energy supplies, he’ll be making America greener.