Global Climate Action Summit Silent on Natural Gas Progress

This fall, business leaders, government officials, and environmental activists from around the world gathered in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Event organizers said they want to bend “the curve of emissions down.”

If they truly want to accomplish that goal, they ought to end the summit early and go drill for more natural gas. The natural gas sector has done far more than any environmentalist group or government to slash carbon emissions.

Thanks to rising natural gas production, the United States cut its carbon emissions last year by about half a percentage point, the biggest drop of any country. This marks the third consecutive year of declines for the United States and the ninth time in the 21st century that America has led the world in emissions reductions.

The advent of hydraulic fracturing — commonly called “fracking” — has enabled energy producers to tap huge natural gas reserves that were previously inaccessible. When drillers frack a well, they pump a high-pressure mix of water and sand into underground rock formations to free the embedded gas. Fracking has driven a 46 percent increase in domestic gas production over the last decade. Today, the United States pumps out 80 billion cubic feet of gas every day, an all-time high.

The rapid expansion in natural gas supply has driven down its price, inducing power plants to switch over from coal to gas.

This transition has yielded enormous environmental benefits: natural gas releases about 50 percent less carbon than coal. Power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 25 percent since 2005.

Today, America’s energy-related carbon emissions are at a 25-year low.

The natural gas boom is driving down emissions of other pollutants as well, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent report on air quality. Between 1990 and 2017, sulfur dioxide emissions dropped 88 percent and nitrogen dioxide emissions dropped 56 percent.

Those stats are all the more impressive considering that Americans increased the number of miles they drove and amount of energy they used over this period.

Summit organizers also say they want to “put the globe on track to prevent dangerous climate change and realize the historic Paris Agreement.”  Initiated to great fanfare by the Obama administration, the agreement committed America and our European partners to modest carbon reductions over the next few decades. When President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement last year, green activists howled.

Thanks to natural gas, America is on track to hit the Paris Agreement’s targets despite the withdrawal. As Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, recently remarked: “In all likelihood, the United States of America will live up to its Paris commitment, not because of the White House, but because of the private sector.”

And what of the Summit’s favorite energy source — renewables? In recent decades, the federal government actively cultivated renewables, doling out huge subsidies to solar, wind, and other fashionable green technologies.

Despite billions in taxpayer handouts, renewables only account for a small share of the overall reduction in admissions. The electricity sector’s transition to natural gas is “mainly” responsible for recent carbon reductions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The United States is the worldwide leader in emissions reductions thanks to fracking. If attendees at the Global Climate Action Summit refuse to acknowledge this basic fact, it will show they’re more interested in virtue signaling than actually combatting climate change.

Drew Johnson is a senior scholar with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. This piece originally ran in the Washington Examiner.

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