Air quality in the United States is improving at the same time U.S. oil and natural gas production has skyrocketed, according to two reports issued this month. As one of the reports from the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) summed it up:

“Over the past 50 years, the U.S. has achieved robust economic growth while dramatically reducing emissions of harmful air pollutants.”

Emissions on federal lands declined significantly for the three main gases typically associated with climate change.

The U.S. Geological Survey this month wrapped up its 18-month U.S. Dept. of Interior-requested analysis of  greenhouse gas emissions associated with the development and use of fossil fuels on federal lands from 2005 to 2014. Specifically, the agency studied carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrogen oxides (N2O), and found:

“Compared to 2005, the 2014 totals represent decreases in emissions for all three greenhouse gases.”

USGS further explained that over the 10-year period, these emissions represented an average of 23.7 percent of national emissions for CO2, 7.3 percent for CH4, and 1.5 percent for N2O.

The decreases coincided with increased onshore oil production on federal lands – production grew by nearly 62 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to DOI data.

The United States is experiencing decreased emissions and an improved economy.

These emissions declines aren’t only occurring on federal land. TPPF’s report takes a hard look at trends in U.S. air quality and the economy over several decades, highlighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 Our Nation’s Air report, World Health Organization (WHO) data, and others that have found significant decreases in the six criteria air pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

For instance, the report explains:

  • From 1970 to 2017, the aggregate emissions for the six criteria pollutants declined 73 percent – at the same time that U.S. gross domestic product increased 262 percent. And they have decreased an average of 64 percent since 1990.
  • Emissions of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) are five to 20 times higher in cities in developing countries than in U.S. cities, according to WHO. In fact, WHO data show that the United States is the only highly populated country to meet the organization’s safe limits for healthy air quality.

U.S. PM2.5 emissions declined 36 percent since 2005, according to Our Nation’s Air. This is  particularly important, as EPA described in the report, because:

“Exposures to PM, particularly fine particles referred to as PM2.5, can cause harmful effects on the cardiovascular system including heart attacks and strokes. These effects can result in emergency department visits, hospitalizations and, in some cases, premature death. PM exposures are also linked to harmful respiratory effects, including asthma attacks.”

Bottom line: Both of these reports show that thanks to technological innovations, the United States has been able to reduce emissions while building its economy through increased energy production. As a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute explained to Oil and Gas Journal, U.S. natural gas production and the resulting consumption is playing a “significant role in achieving 30-year lows in carbon dioxide emissions from power generation that we see today.”