by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
The recent Brookings report on the future of the climate has irreducible good news for environmentalists who have been concerned about emissions. Counter to the pedal drone of media reports, they are going down:
Brookings is here reiterating findings by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others. See my discussion of them in a June 2016 Spotlight report.
That leaves an obvious question: Why are they going down?
Brookings identifies key reasons why emissions in the United States are falling over the 21st century. Those reasons are directly market-oriented as opposed to government-driven.
Technological change drives ever more efficient use of resources, and consumer preferences favor less “carbon-intensive” goods and services. An expanding service sector also results in lower emissions.
Since 2000, especially because of “the decline of natural gas prices made possible by the ‘fracking’ revolution,” states have moved into lower-emissions fuel sources “such as through the substitution of natural gas for coal in power plants.” Nuclear also plays a role there.
I like to rephrase the character Dr. Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) famous remarks in “Jurassic Park” to discuss this wonderful aspect of free markets. By that I mean the wonderful byproduct of people left to the full right of “enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor,” in the words of the North Carolina Constitution. Which is possible when government doesn’t try to control people’s choices and resource allocations:
John, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is … it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of economics has taught us it’s that the entrepreneurial spirit will not be contained. It breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but …. Well, there it is. Entrepreneurs find a way.