It is clear that in his second term, climate change is on the President’s mind. The subject was a major theme of his recent inaugural address and many in Washington are expecting him to lay out his policy goals for carbon reduction in his upcoming State of the Union speech. We expect the President will use both his influence over the Congress, and his regulatory authority to implement further restrictions on business and industry with the goal of reducing carbon emissions.
Before the President pursues any sweeping policies, he must first recognize that the U.S. is leading the world in reducing its carbon emissions and is among the cleanest developed nations on earth. Despite declining to participate in the Kyoto Protocol, the United States has reduced its carbon emissions to levels not seen since 1992, a title no Kyoto member can claim. From 2008 to 2012 the U.S. dropped its emissions of carbon by 20%. At this rate the country stands to reach the Kyoto emissions target (1990 levels) well before any of the participating nations.
Building on this success, the Energy Information Administration recently noted that U.S. carbon emissions are continuing their decline, dropping 6.3 percent between January and May of 2012.
A major factor in the country achieving this feat is the production and use of domestic natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has opened up vast new resources of shale gas, once thought to be locked away forever in a vault of rock. Now, the U.S. is actively tapping this amazing resource.
At the same time the U.S. renewable portfolio is growing by leaps and bounds. Solar power has increased by about 14-fold since 2008, skyrocketing from 500 megawatts installed in 2008 to an expected 8,000 megawatts at the end of 2012. Wind power increased from 25,000 megawatts to about 55,000 megawatts furthering our emissions profile, helping grow a fledgling industry, and providing jobs and investment across America’s heartland.
The U.S. has some of the strictest and most effective pollution controls in the world (unlike some other industrialized nations). But those controls are just one piece of the pollution and climate change puzzle. The increased production and use of natural gas will decrease may prove to be a more effective, economically viable strategy to reduce carbon emissions.
The availability and affordability of natural gas, which is to say the free market, is working to help lower carbon emissions without increased regulation and red tape. Congress and the President should remember this when they begin to tackle climate change in the coming months and years. As our country climbs further out of recession with domestic energy production leading the way, now is not the time for expensive and indulgent policies that use brute force to achieve our goals.