U.S. Leads the World in Cutting CO2 Emissions…With Help from Fracking and Poor Economy

Friday, July 20, 2012
Quietly, the United States has reduced carbon emissions to their lowest levels in six years. But the reasons for this success may be keeping the Obama administration from touting this accomplishment.
Since 2006, the U.S. output of greenhouse gases has gone down 7.7%. That’s the biggest drop of any country in the world during this time.
So why isn’t Obama talking up this achievement?
Writing in Grist, David Roberts notes that, for starters, the U.S. demand for electricity—much of which is produced by coal-fired power plants—has been flat since 2008, when the economy tanked. In other words, the Great Recession really helped reduce emissions, and no politician wants to praise an economic downturn for its environmental benefits.
Secondly, the U.S. is producing a glut of affordable natural gas, which is helping further limit demand for coal to produce electricity. But the excess supplies of natural gas were made possible by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a controversial drilling method that may be contaminating water supplies in various parts of the country, and which is taking jobs away from regions dependent on coal mining.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
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