by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The federal Energy Information Administration announced last week that as of 2015, the power generation industry, the largest contributor to American emissions, has reduced carbon dioxide emissions to 1993 levels, 21 percent below 2005 levels. Between this reduction and a smaller reduction in emissions from motor vehicles, the U.S. cut total emissions by 12 percent in ten years, despite 15 percent growth in the economy during the same period.
The same force that began this trend last decade will drive those levels down still further. What was that force? It wasn’t the cap and trade bill that died in Congress early in Obama’s term. It wasn’t Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which remains tied up in court and won’t be implemented for some time.
Rather, it was fracking. And fracking will continue to push carbon emissions much lower for years to come.
As EIA put it, somewhat misleadingly, “A shift on the electricity generation mix, with generation from natural gas and renewables displacing coal-fired power, drove the reductions in emissions.”
But wind and solar power, despite heavy subsidies and mandates for their use, accounted for only about 5.5 percent of electrical generation in 2015.
The main reason for the drop in carbon emissions is that new low natural gas prices, driven by the fracking boom, made it a much more economical fuel than coal. And coal releases 2.5 times more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than does natural gas.