The American energy story Obama won’t tell the world
President Barack Obama is poised to repeat his history of weak-handed negotiations on the world stage when nearly 200 countries gather in Paris on Monday to consider an international response to climate change. According to the president, rejecting the Keystone XL oil pipeline and piling regulations on the fossil fuel and power industries in the United States are necessary to preserving America’s credibility as a leader on the world stage.
But by doing this, Obama ignores the strongest card in America’s hand as he steps to the table: the advances our energy sector has made to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously acting as the lone bright spot in our economy.
In essence, his rhetoric is blind to the true story of American energy. But this story cannot be ignored.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, monthly power sector carbon dioxide emissions reached a 27-year low in April 2015. But, the progress does not stop there. Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are also declining. According to data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped 9 percent between 2005 and 2013 — the largest reduction from any country.
So what has made these positive developments possible? The answer is America’s oil and natural gas renaissance, as well as our insatiable appetite to innovate. Despite Obama’s efforts to stop oil and natural gas development on federal lands and the introduction of unnecessary regulations that increase the cost of production and consumption, American production has been growing at an astounding rate. Natural gas production hit nearly 91 billion cubic feet per day — an increase of about 27 billion cubic feet since August 2006, or enough gas to power up to 290,000 homes per year.
A Manhattan Institute study concluded that the increase in clean natural gas production is the greatest contributor toward declining U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, carbon emissions in America are down to where they were a quarter century ago, though our population has been growing.
Even EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has recognized the important contributions of American natural gas to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, saying hydraulic fracturing has “created an opportunity for a shift… into natural gas, and that shift has been enormously beneficial from a clean air perspective, as well as from a climate perspective.”
It is important to note that this progress wasn’t driven by arbitrary benchmarks or government mandates, but rather by the free market and natural consensus for a freer, safer, and more economically prosperous future. The conclusion the president should draw from this and bring to the table with the international community is clear: only by embracing the free market can we improve the world’s environmental outlook while also strengthening our economies.
To demonstrate true leadership, Obama should start emphasizing the important role of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas development across the globe. America would then be standing for policies with proven results rather than for ideas that may sound good, but just don’t work. Developing nations desperate for economic growth would be particularly enthusiastic with this proposition as an alternative to the economically disastrous policies currently in vogue.
And this is exactly the vision the Republican-led Congress intends to project to the world. We are listening to the American people, who largely do not support the president’s regulatory agenda and who understand that there is a better way. Obama’s policies will kill jobs, increase costs, and decrease reliability in an attempt to achieve a goal that the free market is already achieving. His policy is, in essence, regulatory cap-and-trade — the same type of cap-and-trade that was defeated by Congress in 2009 when the president’s own party was in control.
To this end, Congress will promote the American energy story and reject commitments based on a misguided understanding of our climate, economic progress, and our needs for tomorrow. I have always believed if you give an engineer enough time, she will unlock a solution. Our energy revolution has been one of the greatest developments in the industrialized world. Abandoning it could be one of the biggest mistakes.
So when the President goes in front of the COP21 gathering, he should embrace and share the story of American success. Only then will he negotiate from a position of strength along with the moral authority to encourage the world to follow suit.