U.S. Going “Green,” Accidentally

The shale gas revolution and Barack Obama’s lousy economy have achieved what endless global warming conferences couldn’t: U.S. industrial CO2 emissions are sinking fast. In fact, John Hanger reports at Watts Up With That?, U.S. carbon emissions may drop to their 1990 level this year. Hanger prepared this chart to illustrate the trend:

What is causing the U.S. to go “green?” Part of the answer, although Hanger doesn’t mention it, is our poor economy. As the chart shows, CO2 emissions plummeted in 2009 and have not fully rebounded. But the current decline is driven by other factors:

Why are US carbon emissions plummeting back to 1990 levels?

First and foremost are sharp reductions from electric power production, as a result of fuel switching from coal to gas, rising renewable energy production, and increasing efficiency. Yet, the shale gas revolution, and the low-priced gas that it has made a reality, is the key driver of falling carbon emissions, especially in the last 12 months.

As of April, gas tied coal at 32% of the electric power generation market, nearly ending coal’s 100 year reign on top of electricity markets. Let’s remember the speed and extent of gas’s rise and coal’s drop: coal had 52% of the market in 2000 and 48% in 2008. …

Shale gas production has slashed carbon emissions and saved consumers more than $100 billion per year. Truly astonishing!

I think the $100 billion is more important than the CO2 reduction, and would happily trade faster economic growth for more CO2. Still, it is good to see that technological improvement has once again proved the doom mongers wrong.