A handful of U.S. Senate and House Democrats recently introduced “Cap-and-Dividend” legislation that they boast “will enable the United States to achieve scientifically driven reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while supporting vibrant economic growth.” But here’s a news flash for bill sponsors Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) — and the “Keep It In the Ground” groups pushing this legislation — we are already achieving significant carbon reductions and economic growth thanks to increased natural gas use made possible by fracking.
The United States has reduced overall carbon dioxide emissions 14 percent since 2005 while growing our gross domestic product (GDP) 20.4 percent during that timespan. No other major industrialized country can boast this historic and unprecedented decoupling trend.
The economic benefits of the shale revolution are well documented, creating millions of jobs while driving energy prices to all-time lows. And the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has acknowledged that natural gas deserves credit for the lion’s share of these GHG reductions. The following EIA chart shows that the carbon dioxide emissions savings we’ve gotten from increased natural gas use is about 72 percent greater than what we’ve saved by using so-called “non-carbon” energy sources, like renewables, and has prevented over two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted in the U.S.
United Nations Energy Programme chief Erik Solheim may have summed up what has occurred on the greenhouse gas reduction front in the U.S. over the last decade-plus best when he recently said:
“In all likelihood, the United States of America will live up to its Paris commitment, not because of the White House, but because of the private sector.”
But that hasn’t kept Van Hollen and Beyer from pushing an unnecessary regulatory solution in search of a problem known as the “Healthy Climate and Family Security Act.”
The bill would place a cap on carbon emissions, with the goal of 80 percent reductions below 2005 levels since 2050. It would also auction “carbon pollution permits” to first sellers of oil, coal and natural gas in the U.S. The proceeds from these auctions would then be distributed to U.S. citizens on a quarterly basis.
The bill’s summary sheet argues:
“The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act is a simple, effective, and transparent way to combat climate change while supporting economic growth and a thriving middle class. The solution is market based, pro-growth, and is built to last.”
But the bill is also not likely to get traction in this Congress, and it was clearly designed to placate “Keep It In the Ground” (KIITG) activists with yet another regulatory scheme aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Interestingly, the groups that make up KIITG aren’t even on the same page when it comes to this legislation, namely because it hasn’t worked when it’s been implemented in other countries. On the one side there’s Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) all openly pushing the bill, while Food & Water Watch has been critical of the bill and is providing a very rare voice of reason to its fellow fringe activist organizations, saying:
“A similar market system of carbon control has been in place in the European Union for over ten years with no appreciable impact on greenhouse gas emissions…”
Indeed, as government mandates has failed to yield noteworthy emission reductions in countries such as Germany, the United States continues to achieve significant GHG reductions even as its economy booms in concert with oil and gas production.
So although the intended goal of this “Cap-and-Dividend” legislation — achieving significant greenhouse reductions along with economic growth — is certainly a noble one, a far more effective measure is already in place — plentiful and affordable natural gas, made possible by fracking.