The US Is Slashing CO2 Emissions Much More Cost-Effectively Than World, Says Study

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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America is reducing its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions far more cost effectively than the rest of the world, according to a new study published by the left-wing Brookings Institution.

The Brookings report says its findings “would seem to license cautious optimism,” as they indicate that the global and American economies can continue growing even while slashing CO2 emissions. The report notes that America has cut CO2 emissions far more efficiently than the rest of the world.

“The [U.S.] is the largest country to decouple CO2 emissions from economic growth for multiple years, ” Dr. Devashree Saha, an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution who co-authored the study, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I think that the U.S. is one of the only countries that has done so consistently for multiple years and has done it consistently since basically 2001 while stilling growing its economy.”

World CO2 emissions versus economic output (Courtesy of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program)

World CO2 emissions versus economic output (Courtesy of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program)

Early projections from researchers at the Global Carbon Project found that global emissions will only rise by about 0.2 percent relative to last year, while U.S. CO2 emissions are expected to fall an additional 1.7 percent this year.

U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen by 12 percent after peaking in 2005 and its economy continued to grow at a higher rate than other developed countries. The European Union’s CO2 emissions, for example, increased by 0.7 percent last year. U.S. emissions that year fell to their lowest level in two decades even though the EU spent more money supporting wind, solar and bio-energy.

American CO2 Emissions versus economic output (Courtesy of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program)

American CO2 Emissions versus economic output (Courtesy of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program)

“We actually looked quite a bit into the shift from coal to natural gas and it’s one of the primary drivers of America’s reduction of CO2 emissions by quite a bit,” Saha said. “Gas is cheap and abundant due to the technological growth of hydraulic fracturing [fracking]. It’s certainly an important factor.”

Fracking is the primary reason for the decline in U.S. CO2 emissions as opposed to federal regulations, according to reports published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

EIA attributes falling CO2 emissions to “decreased use of coal and the increased use of natural gas for electricity generation.”

Natural gas emits about half the CO2 of coal power, and is cost-competitive with coal in most areas due to fracking. The EIA estimates roughly 68 percent of the falling U.S. CO2 emissions are due to the switch from coal to natural gas. Saha noted that the fracking-enabled shift from coal to natural gas was likely far more important than the growth of green energy in explaining how the U.S. reduced CO2 emissions in such a cost effective manner.

“Interestingly, states with a lot of wind and solar power actually increased their carbon dioxide emissions during the study period,” Saha said. “It’s quite possible that there are factors preventing renewables from reaching their full potential. States with a lot of natural gas in the northeast and southern states have the strongest decoupling trend where their economies grow while CO2 emissions fall. There’s been a dramatic shift away from coal power to natural gas in those states which has let them decrease their CO2 emissions.”

“You’re not going to see a similar trend of decoupling in developing countries like China or India, even though those countries are trying to promote renewables,” Saha told TheDCNF. “This is a story that’s almost exclusive to extremely advanced economies like the U.S.”

Fracking cut CO2 emissions more than solar or wind power, according to a study published last November by the Manhattan Institute. The study shows solar power is responsible for 1 percent of the decline in American CO2 emissions, while natural gas is responsible for nearly 20 percent. For every ton of CO2 cut by solar power, fracking cuts 13 tons.

There’s no link between the pro-green energy policies of U.S. states and falling CO2 emissions, but there is a statistically significant link between falling CO2 and natural gas electricity, according to statistical analysis previously conducted by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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