Fracking Is Our Clean Power Plan

Source: Forbes

As environmental groups gather to strategize maximum mileage from the president’s “Clean Power Plan,” they would do well to remember what they might regard as the greatest environmental triumph of this century: The U.S. already leads the world in carbon emissions reduction, with emissions down 26% since the shale boom hits its stride in 2007. Why? Because of the use of natural gas, a fossil fuel, now produced in historic volumes made possible through fracking, or hydraulic fracturing.

Fracked natural gas has been key to reducing U.S. carbon emissions to their lowest levels since 1988, the U.S. Department of Energy recently announced.

Over the same 27 year time-frame, figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show the U.S. economy nearly doubled, growing about 50% when gross domestic product is adjusted for inflation. 

With the shale boom, lower emissions and economic growth need not be at odds

Our economic growth was largely the result of cheap fossil fuels. They feed our electric grid, enable the digital revolution, run our transportation sector, manufacture American durable goods and electronics, and produce petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Fracking was key to our growth in fossil fuels production; the Independent Petroleum Association of America notes that more than 1.2 million wells have been fracked in the U.S. Because of historic production through fracking, the U.S. was the top natural gas and petroleum producer on earth in 2014, and our energy costs have fallen. U.S. industrial electricity costs are now 30-50% lower than those of our foreign competitors, resulting in a manufacturing renaissance and the “reshoring” of perhaps millions of American jobs, according to a new report by the Boston Consulting Group. By 2018, enhanced fossil fuel production through fracking will enable the U.S. to manufacture goods cheaper than in China.

Americans, using American ingenuity with advances in fracking and horizontal drilling, harnessed the free market to accomplish what the president, the EPA and the environmental groups have failed to achieve: America’s status as the top carbon emissions reducer in the world, simultaneous with a doubling of the economy. We should not be surprised; the U.S. oil and gas industry invests more in carbon emissions reduction tech than the U.S. government and all other industries combined, according to the American Petroleum Institute. 

Carbon emissions reduction through fracking is significantly more impressive than the results promised in the President’s new job-killing “Clean Power Plan,”—and his promises often do not match his outcomes. Politicians must be evaluated by what they do, not what they say they will do. 

How does the President’s plan compare to the frackers’ record?

Obama’s unproven plan would yield less carbon reduction than fracking over twice the time frame. This plan, built on nonsensical assumptions and costly, inferior energy production methods, outlines a 32% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels, and demands this outcome by 2030. Since frackers have already achieved a 26% reduction in carbon emissions since 2007, the job is mostly done. If the president would simply stay out of the way, the remainder of his goal would come about on its own through market forces (continued displacement of other fuels by natural gas) and greater efficiency through innovation.     

And can the president’s plan match the 50% GDP growth rate that our fossil fuels economy produced over the past decades? He promises unrealistic numbers of green jobs (flashback to Solyndra and “shovel ready” fantasies of his first term), but growth across the rest of the economy would seem to be nearly impossible since this plan is a manifestation of the president’s vow to make energy prices “skyrocket,” as we learned from the Cap and Trade—or “Cap and Tax”—viral videos from his first term. The consulting firm NERA warned that the Clean Power Plan, even in its original, less ambitious form, would be the most expensive regulation ever imposed upon the power sector (passed on to consumers). Energy Ventures Analysis estimated that industrial electricity rates could double. This could easily force manufacturers overseas again, killing jobs. Worst of all, the hardest hit by these crushing energy bills will be fixed-income Americans, such as seniors and single moms. To top it off, Commissioner Moeller of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) opined that the president’s approach threatens to bring “widespread rotating blackouts,” sporadically killing whatever productivity remains and leaving Americans vulnerable during the most severe weather events.  

Fracking is the answer to carbon emissions reduction

Enough already. Fracking for natural gas is the answer to carbon emissions reduction, and even Obama’s top officials such as his EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, and Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, have spoken publicly about the safety of fracking.

If you like your clean air, do not thank the President. Thank the membership of the American Natural Gas Association and the pioneers of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

One great lesson of the success of U.S. carbon emissions reduction is that government is not the answer. If the president and environmental groups are serious about lowering carbon emissions, they will begin to promote what works by getting out of the way, rather than trumpeting that which fills the coffers with carbon tax dollars and Big Green contributions.