Save The Planet By Expanding Fracking: Abolish Regulatory Barriers to Its Growth

by Hans Bader on July 3, 2012

in Blog, Politics

As Professor Glenn Reynolds notes, if you want to cut carbon emissions, you should eliminate regulatory obstacles to fracking, since fracking cuts carbon emissions far more than costly cap-and-trade regulations do.  By expanding access to clean natural gas, fracking is helping reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. As Walter Russell Mead notes at The American Interest, “fracking is doing more to control carbon emissions than all the efforts of all the greens in the world. And by promoting American (and Chinese!) domestic energy production, it is doing more to lay the foundations of world peace than all the peace activists and disarmament campaigners in the world.” Fracking has “driven a natural gas boom in this country and dramatically cut the cost of the cleanest hydrocarbon energy source of them all,” contributing to cleaner air, not just lower greenhouse gas emissions.  It is also expected to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign energy.

As CNN notes, “U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are falling” thanks to things like fracking. “Europe, by contrast, has seen its energy-sector carbon emissions remain basically flat,” even though Europe operates under a costly “cap-and-trade scheme where emissions are capped at a certain level,” and “Europe has significantly higher taxes on energy.”  Countries like Germany have blocked fracking to produce clean energy, even as they cling to a failed cap-and-trade scheme that imposes huge costs while failing to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has tightened restrictions on fracking, which is permitted under state law in many states.  But it has not been nearly as hostile to fracking as many liberal state governors and legislators, like North Carolina’s Bev Perdue.  By contrast, conservative governors and legislators have supported fracking, which has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Environmental Luddites oppose fracking, preferring draconian and utopian energy rationing schemes instead.  They hype non-existent or exaggerated risks associated with it, ignoring the complete lack of any evidence to date that it would harm the environment.

Environmental groups like the NRDC prefer rigid government restrictions on carbon emissions by factories, farms, and vehicles, even though such restrictions could cripple the economy.  If they can’t obtain that (through EPA regulations), then they’ll take a cap-and-trade limit on emissions.

But cap-and-trade, too, is costly, and it’s virtually all pain, no gain.  Obama earlier admitted that “under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”  Although cap-and-trade supporters claim it will cut greenhouse gas emissions, it may perversely increase them and also result in dirtier air by driving industries overseas to places with few limits on air pollution of any kind (not just no limits on greenhouse gases).

As Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist who served on Obama’s economic advisory board, noted, the cap-and-trade energy-rationing scheme backed by the “Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats” would “have a trivially small effect on global warming while imposing substantial costs on all American households. And to get political support in key states, the legislation would abandon the auctioning of permits in favor of giving permits to selected corporations.”  As he observed,  “the Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that the resulting increases in consumer prices” from capping the amount of carbon dioxide energy users can emit “would raise the cost of living of a typical household by $1,600 a year,” a figure that “would rise significantly” from year to year.

Meanwhile, politically-connected corporations would profit, since the “bill would give away some 85 percent of the permits” to emit carbon dioxide to favored “businesses instead of selling them at auction.”  Companies with plants overseas lobbied for Obama’s global-warming legislation, which would give them an advantage over American competitors. (This is just one illustration of how Obama’s policies effectively outsource American jobs and drive U.S. jobs overseas).  Obama’s cap-and-trade global-warming bill, which failed to pass Congress, was chock full of  corporate welfare and contained environmentally harmful ethanol subsidies.

Two EPA lawyers criticized the cap-and-trade energy bill backed by Obama as a scam, arguing in The Washington Post that it would be exploited to enrich politically-connected corporations and reward certain kinds of pollution, while having little effect on greenhouse gas emissions.  A similar scheme enacted in Europe in the name of fighting global warming enriched certain polluters, while not reducing emissions, which actually rose rose in most of Europe after it was adopted.

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