U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions at 20-Year Low Thanks to Fracking

The Associated Press reports that new data from the Energy Information Administration shows that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide emissions are back down to their 1992 levels:

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Scientists didn't see it coming? Well, it's not like they understand how markets work; even markets as heavily regulated as energy production is.

The AP further reports:

While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.

A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from $7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced. As a result, utilities are relying more than ever on gas-fired generating plants.

Both government and industry experts said the biggest surprise is how quickly the electric industry turned away from coal. In 2005, coal was used to produce about half of all the electricity generated in the U.S. The Energy Information Agency said that fell to 34 percent in March, the lowest level since it began keeping records nearly 40 years ago.

Lots of environmental activists dislike cheap natural gas because it outcompetes their first loves, photovoltaic and wind power. It spooks the nuke folks too. I noted a Washington Post headline back in February that actually read: "Cheap Gas Jumbles Energy Markets, Stirs Fears that It Could Inhibit Renewables." As the Post reported then:

Rachel Cleetus, a senior climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that “the problem is [natural gas] can take over the entire pie and crowd out renewables. Part of the reason this is happening is there’s a boom and there’s a sense that natural gas resources will be around forever.”

...the economic issue is disruptive, too. The rush to produce shale gas “is forcing all of us to seriously address what it means for us,” said Ralph Izzo, chief executive of Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), a New Jersey-based utility that relies on nuclear energy for half of its power supply. Izzo said it would mean “the delay of the nuclear renaissance for years to come.”

I ask again: Can an energy source be all that bad if it scares the two most heavily subsidized sectors of the electric power generation industry?

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  • Pip||

    Delicious!

  • Hyperion||

    U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions at 20-Low

    FTW? Someone is going to be responsible for that glacier that knocks my house over. I am getting a lawyer now and I WILL SUE you bastards for decreasing the co2. Also, you are depriving plants of their food, plant haters! Plants are people too!

    But also, fracking bad! Cause earth to shake. Science to back it up? Who needs science, we have Al Gore, he have noble prize!

  • albo||

    There's massive cognitive dissonance in green weenie land right now.

    Hope their heads start to smoke and shake and spin off and their souls discover that Hell is heated by burning pandas.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Right now? It's pretty much a constant state, given that they (by and large) have utterly no concept of trade-offs.

  • Hyperion||

    But, but... the RIO earth summit was a huge success! Oh wait, well... Cancun!..., errr, but there was Copenhagen!... Oh wait, that's right... fudge...

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Nuclear!

  • Hyperion||

    Hell is heated by burning pandas

    What a terrible thing to say! Everyone knows that hell is heated by burning baby seals. Pandas don't have the blubber content to stoke a good hellfire.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Off topic, but I ate at "Panda Express" the other night. Well, long story short, I looked through their entire menu and there weren't any Panda dishes on the entire menu. Not one.

    TRUTH IN ADVERTISING!

  • Loki||

    I ate at "Panda Express" the other night

    ...and then you got epic explosive diarrhea, right? I hope you had some Chipotlaway handy.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Loki, you should really tip your server, you know.

  • Anacreon||

    I sent this article to a lefty friend of mine who is involved in the green energy biz. His response:

    "Read the whole article.
    "Natural gas is not a long-term solution to the CO2 problem," Pielke warned.

    Natural gas beats coal, but as far as free market goes, you're neglecting the $70 billion in subisides that goes to fossil fuels. Drilling credits, self-declared depreciations.And let's not forget lease rates tied to 19th century prices (All of the new coal in the US gets exported to China.) Congressional budget office says fossil subsidies far exceed what renewables get.

    Also, the swtich from coal is also being pushed by regulations. they have to phase those out.

    So this is a victory for gas, not your alleged free market principles."

    How would you recommend I respond to him?

  • ||

    you're neglecting the $70 billion in subisides that goes to fossil fuels.

    Most of those subsides are in the form of manufacturing tax credits.

    Windmill and solar panel manufactures get those same tax credits...as do video game developers, which is weird.

    Anyway natural gas has gotten those same subsidies for a long long time yet the price went from 8$ to 3$ recently. Also the price drop is compared to coal...which gets the same subsidies.

    He is simply wrong. Coal is more expensive now then Natural gas because of free market forces and advancements in technology. And the switch from coal to natural gas is solely because of that price difference.

  • ||

    You should also point out that environmental destruction is expensive.

    With the Coal vs Gas comparison a layman can see that pretty easily.

    Coal is a solid that needs to be dug up which costs lots of money in time and labor and transportation.

    Gas is a gas. one does not need to be a genius to see that drilling a 4 inch hole and pumping water and sand into it is easy work compared to digging up a mountain.

    Gas requires less destruction to the environment than Coal and is less expensive because it is less destructive.

    The incentives of the free market are in line with incentives to protect the environment.

  • VangelV||

    ...So this is a victory for gas, not your alleged free market principles."

    How would you recommend I respond to him?

    The subsidy argument is false. Many people use the depletion rules as an argument against the oil and gas producers while they ignore that taxes are ultimately paid by the consumer and that the product that the oil and gas companies produce makes far more for governments than for the investors who take all the risks.

    That said, the argument above is flawed. First, the decline of coal is not driven by market forces but by government agencies trying to kill the coal sector. (And what the gas cheerleaders ignore is the fact that the shale producers have given money to green groups so that those groups can put pressure on coal.)

    But the primary reason for the decline in emissions comes from the contraction in real economic activity. The less activity the less demand for energy. This is why the demand for gasoline and jet fuel are down in the US and explains part of the decline for coal.

  • o3||

    yes, but should we join opec?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02.....stion.html

  • The Hammer||

    No. That was a stupid question six months ago, and it's still a stupid question. It's really unsurprising that you would link to Friedman thinking he is deep and thought-provoking, though.

  • Juice||

    Natural gas is not petroleum.

  • ||

    Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action...

    That's the most beautiful sentence I've read today. I should get a bumper sticker of that.

  • albo||

    Seriously. And that it actually appeared in an AP wire story? Doubleplusgood.

  • BoscoH||

    Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

    Frak the climate scientists. Oh and how about a new rule. Pick One: (a) be an alarmist, (b) insist we fix the problem your way.

  • rts||

    Of course, pages 2 and 3 of that piece were dedicated to "fracking pollutes drinking water", "natural gas is still evil, just because", "fracking needs MOAR REGULATION", etc. etc.

  • R C Dean||

    Nope, this will be processed as "See, President Obama DID save the planet!!"

    And the flatlining of temperatures over the last ten years will be attributed to the reduction in CO2 in the last couple of years. Because Gaia just works that way.

  • Hyperion||

    You are right. We need to fund more Solyndras. Because even though they never produced one working solar panel, and wasted tons of taxpayer money, it just proves that it is meaning well and emotions are what counts. And we just proved that it works! FORWARD!

  • ||

    And the flatlining of temperatures over the last ten years will be attributed to the reduction in CO2 in the last couple of years.

    1. 2010 is the hottest year on record. 2005 is second.

    2. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have risen rapidly over the past 10 years, almost 2 ppm per year.

    Other than that, good comment. LMAO

  • o3||

    they cant hear you jersey having stuck thermometers in their ears

  • Auric Demonocles||

    . 2010 is the hottest year on record. 2005 is second.

    Which says nothing about whether or not temperatures have flatlined over the past decade.

  • ||

    The 00s were hotter than the 90s, which were hotter than the 80s, which were hotter than the 70s.

    2010, an El Nino year, was the hottest year on record.

    2011 was only 11th or so, but it was the hottest La Nina year on record.

    The 12 hottest years on record are 1998, 2000-2011.

    There is no flatline.

  • A Mathematician||

    Right. Those were the decades when we started getting the satellite data. Funny thing is also we started getting satellite data of the martian atmosphere, and they have been going through a warming period the past 40 years also. Somebody should tell Marvin to cut his emissions.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    So there is life on Mars. And at least some of them are Libertarian Tyrants. I don't know how else the warming could be explained.

  • Anacreon||

    Mars has the largest monocle factory in the solar system.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Comparing the 00's to any other decade doesn't tell you anything about whether or not temperatures flatlined during the 00's.

  • ||

    No.

    The later part of the 70s and the 80s and 90s were flat.

  • R C Dean||

    C'mon, JP. Every month Ron regales us with the temp chart. You can see for yourself - the last ten years or so have wobbled around in a range.

  • R C Dean||

    JP, you don't have a problem with 2005 being hotter than 2006 through 2009, even though "Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have risen rapidly over the past 10 years, almost 2 ppm per year."

    I mean, if CO2 goes up every year (rapidly!), and CO2 causes global warming, why doesn't the temperature go up every year? How can we have CO2 go up YOY, and temperatures go down YOY?

  • ||

    Because JP is a fucking retard when it comes to this. Right up their with Derider and Tony.

  • ||

    Right up their

    Wrong on science, wrong on homophones. 0 for 2, sport.

  • ||

    D'oh, I fell victim to one of those epimonious(?) laws.

    And as has been pointed out time and again, none of the "science" can even be replicated, much less used to predict anything. Weren't we supposed to be in the middle of an ice age right now?

    And if those oscillations and sun cycles can affect the temperature yoy, then maybe saying CO2 is THE cause of global warming is a little...premature.

  • ||

    CO2 causes global warming

    At least this particular global warming.

    why doesn't the temperature go up every year?

    El Nino/La Nina, Arctic oscillation, Pacific decadal oscillation, Antarctic oscillation, sun cycles.

    But hey, why should we listen to the climate scientists when we have Republican hospital lawyers to explain it to us? *chuckle*

  • Auric Demonocles||

    You're not a scientist if you aren't making reproducible experiments.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    That reduction in CO2? You didn't build that.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Swing lowwww
    Sweet carbon dioxide
    Not comin' for to make me warm
    Swing lowwwww
    Sweet carbon dioxide
    Not comin' for the make me warm....

  • Joe R.||

    You're all welcome.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    cut down on the beans did you?

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    My personal favorite global warming fact is that CO2 levels are lower exiting the USA over the East Coast than when entering over the West Coast.
    The USA absorbs net CO2.

  • Brett L||

    Something about giant swathes of forest and CO2 being an essential plant nutrient. Who woulda thunk it?

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    we need more plants though to make that argument...of course private property rights helps that, another greenie bugaboo.

  • Brett L||

    So like, a reforestation trend in America would count as that sort of evidence.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    yeah, it'd be nice to see more reforestation of the amazon too, huge CO2 sink.

    but yeah, my point exactly.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Of course none of this matters to greenies. They will still find a way to hate, because the planet was NEVER the issue; it was always how to reorganize the world economy so that they had more direct control over it.

  • Hyperion||

    Never mind the facts. You must have faith that AGW is real and you must be willing to part with all of your worldly possessions to fight it! Or else, YOU ARE DENIERS!!!

    Somehow that reminds me of religion, although they say it is science... me confused...

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Gas is cheap to use as energy if you have the infrastructure and when its no longer cheap, disposing of a natural gas plant is way cheaper than remediating a coal or nuclear plant. Its a no brainer if you're building new.

  • Archduke PantsFan||

    Ice Free arctic means moar fishes
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/envi.....-vanishing

  • Hyperion||

    Moar fishes is bad! Because that would mean more evil fishing. Fishing bad! Why do you hate the fishes?

  • ||

    Can an energy source be all that bad if it scares the two most heavily subsidized sectors of the electric power generation industry?

    Three most, actually. It scares coal, too.

  • Ron Bailey||

    JP: Coal is scared, but as I reported back in 2005 earlier the actual subsidies for the various electric power generation sectors got from the Feds look like this:

    Since 1961 the federal government has spent nearly $187 billion (in current dollars) for the development of advanced energy technologies and basic energy science research. About a quarter of the funds were spent during the oil crisis of the 1970s. According to an October 2008 report by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, $66 billion of that $187 billion has been spent researching nuclear energy, $65 billion on basic energy science, $28 billion on fossil fuel research and development, and $28 billion on renewables and conservation.

    Since then the renewables have gotten lots more in the way of subsidies.

  • ||

    The costs of coal pollution are not included in its price. That is a massive subsidy.

    Your statistic also ignores the gigantic fossil fuel subsidies of a massive military presence in the Middle East, electrification programs, both Iraq Wars, military/financial support for totalitarian dictatorships, the interstate highway system, airplane subsidies, train subsidies, and on and on. If you're not thinking about those sorts of things, I wouldn't accuse others of not understanding markets.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Does that apply to breathing as well?

    Am I getting subsidized right now, just sitting here?

    Do I owe Pope Gore some indulgence money or something for my original sin?

  • buybuydandavis||

    Does that apply to breathing as well?

    Only when you exhale.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Does that apply to breathing as well?

    Only when you exhale.

  • ||

    I ask again: Can an energy source be all that bad if it scares the two most heavily subsidized sectors of the electric power generation industry?

    Are you saying nuclear power is significantly more heavily subsidized than nat-gas, coal, and hydro?

  • tarran||

    Try getting liability insurance for a nuclear power plant on the insurance market.

    The government subsidized insurance is what makes it possible for utilities to convince investors to pony up money to build the things.

  • Ron Bailey||

    W. Yes. See my comment to JP above.

  • ||

    So $66M bucks from 1961-2008? Meh.

  • ||

    Billion with a B...

  • ||

    yeah
    When the fuck are we gonna get an edit button?

    Even 66 Gigabucks over nearly half a century, meh.

  • ||

    I eagerly await Derprider and Chony's excuses and explanations, right before they say we still need the government to control the economy so that global warming climate change weather doesn't happen.

    Oh wait, no I don't.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    They're busy looking around the web right now, trying to find the Party Line™ on how to respond.

  • Loki||

    Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action

    Here, let me show you my shocked face.

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