October 17, 2017

REALITY TRUMPS RHETORIC ON GREENHOUSE: America’s Emissions Are Still Declining Under Trump.

One doesn’t have to be an environmentalist to harbor fears about President Trump’s effect on America’s role in mitigating global climate change. The United States is responsible for roughly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and those GHGs are driving surface temperatures upwards. Those facts make Trump’s dismissal of climate change as a hoax perpetrated by China concerning, to say the least.

But the picture isn’t as grim as many environmentalists fear it to be. Even now, after Scott Pruitt’s EPA move to unravel President Obama’s marquee domestic green initiative, the Clean Power Plan, American energy-related emissions are projected to drop in 2017, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). So what’s at work here? If the Trump Administration is so skeptical of climate policy, why aren’t the projections matching the doomsday rhetoric?

In large part, what’s happened to U.S. emissions since their recent peak in 2007 has occurred despite—not because—of federal policy. The Clean Power Plan was never put into place, as it was still working its way through legal challenges before Pruitt announced his intention to dismantle it. Therefore, we can’t give President Obama’s green aspirations credit for this recent drop in emissions.

Instead, the drop occurred due to market forces, specifically the displacement of coal-fired power generation by cheap, plentiful natural gas provided by the shale boom. Fracking’s flourishing has made our dirtiest form of electricity production less economical, and because natural gas plants emits half as much carbon as their coal counterparts, this shift has also made our energy mix more climate friendly.

For the most part, this will continue to be the case under Trump, which is why the EIA is expecting energy-related emissions to fall this year.

By way of comparison, how’s Europe doing?

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