In 1997, the nations of the world signed a treaty called the Kyoto Protocol, which imposed aggressive targets on developed nations for the reduction of CO2 emissions by 2012, maintaining them at or below 1997 levels. U.S. delegates in Kyoto accepted the treaty, but it was never ratified by the Senate, so the U.S. targets never had the force of law.
Environmentalists and central planners worried that without the full commitment of the U.S., our planet faced a grim future. Unless we accepted their austere prescription (cap-and-trade, fossil fuel bans and rising costs for all forms of energy), life on our little green marble was doomed. Oh, the poor polar bears!
Fast forward to 2014. Renewable energy’s share of our energy use is still in the low single digits. Cap-and-trade died a quiet death in Obama’s first term. On the fossil fuel front, we are in the middle of a shale drilling boom.
But ironically, the U.S. alone among the major developed countries met its Kyoto goals, and we did it without seriously hobbling the economy. How? Two words: natural gas. Oh, and one more word: fracking.
Plentiful, abundant, cheap American natural gas displaced coal in electricity generation, at half of coal’s level of CO2 emissions. At the same time, the petroleum sector has been one of the economy’s few bright spots, providing massive private investment, jobs by the thousands and unexpected cash flows into depressed regions. Gas may even represent a new export market for the U.S.
We reached our goal! Is the green movement happy about it?
Not so much.
If meeting the Kyoto goal had been their real goal, they would have reacted by recognizing the natural gas boom for the extreme good fortune that it has been. They might have said, “Natural gas may not be inexhaustible, but we’ll have it for a long time to come, long enough to develop alternatives that can gradually be introduced and perfected. Any environmental concerns that we have about fracking can certainly be solved by smart engineers, at must less cost than our unproven climate engineering alternatives. With the future of the planet at stake, this is our best hope!”
Instead, they embraced Plan B: Say no to fracking. Scare the people with lies and propaganda. Double down on expensive renewables and government control. And nukes are still off the table.
They said, in other words, “It’s our way or the
highway hiking path.”
They didn’t like it because the path we took was market-centric. We did not look to the government for leadership. The federal government has little control since the revolution happened on private lands under state jurisdiction.
Natural gas strategies were hatched in Houston, Oklahoma City and Denver, not D.C. or New York.
Natural gas success depended on who was better, quicker and more efficient, and not on who had the ear of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy who could arrange a Solyndra-style handout.
The natural gas path was largely a non-union one.
Consumers have won across the board, with lower utility bills saving the average gas customer about $1,200 per year.
It was a triumph of capitalism and entrepreneurial vision. Not the way it was planned at all; indeed, it could not have been planned. It’s not surprising that it is wholly unacceptable to the environmental watermelons and (especially) to those who staked their financial and political fortunes on the control they imagined in their Brave New World.
Are you listening, Mr. Gore? And Mr. Steyer? We’re on to you.
Cross-posted at RedState.