US greenhouse gas emissions are falling on their own – despite the fact that the government hasn’t legislated it.
According to CNNMoney, American utilities are producing way less harmful emissions than they were just a few years ago. In fact, the United States in on track to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 17% before 2020, which was the stated goal of the failed cap-and-trade bill congress fought over for weeks back in 2009.
By the way, I was wrong about cap-and-trade. While Europe has had a cap-and-trade system in place for years, European emissions fell just 5% last year despite an incredibly low demand from European consumers. In the United States, on the other hand, emissions dropped 9% over the same period – without a government-created market, which may be unconstitutional anyway.
But if the government didn’t make people adopt cleaner energy standards, how could this have possibly happened?
It’s the free market! (*gasp*)
Yes, folks, the free market. It turns out that getting government out of the way was what actually made the emissions start falling. According to CNN, the biggest reason emissions fell was the widespread adoption of natural gas over coal-fired power plants. Natural gas, which is a much cleaner energy source than coal, has taken off because of a new technique used by extraction companies called “fracking.” Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) was approved a few years ago after being banned in several places, and has since taken natural gas prices to their lowest levels in decades because it enables companies to gather more gas out of the ground without building new wells.
So it turns out that innovation, cheap resources, and a smaller government are better for the earth than a government-mandated pollution market. Geir Vollsaeter, head of the energy and environmental consultancy Green World Advisors and former climate change specialist at Royal Dutch Shell, said it best:
“The cap-and-trade system in Europe has not delivered to date. Other tools in the tool box seem to be more efficient.”
Other tools like the free market, which hasn’t let us down yet.