Guest essay by Larry Hamlin
The WSJ published a recent article allegedly describing how U.S. future energy and climate plans of the Biden administration are being developed.
The article described various approaches and organizations involved in this process and the schemes that are being considered to significantly increase future U.S. GHG emission reduction commitments.
The article noted the following:
“Biden administration officials have said they plan to unveil a new U.S. target for emissions reductions during a global climate-change summit in Washington next month. It will set a goal for reducing U.S. emissions over the next nine years.”
“In private meetings in recent weeks, according to people involved in the discussions, outside environmental groups and climate data analysts have encouraged the White House to nearly double the emissions reduction target that then-President Barack Obama set in 2014. At the time, Mr. Obama promised to slash U.S. emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.”
“The groups have presented modeling to the White House making the case that a target in the range of 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 is achievable, the people said, if it accounts for actions already being taken by cities, states, businesses and local governments. Last year, total U.S. emissions were about 21% lower than in 2005 in part because of the pause in economic activity driven by the pandemic.
The WSJ article grossly understates the huge economic damage that the Covid 19 pandemic played in reducing estimated year 2020 U.S. CO2 emissions from year 2019 levels.
The reality is that between 2005 and 2019 the U.S. GHG reduction level was about 12.5% with that reduction level increasing hugely to 21.5% for the period between 2005 and 2020 when the reductions from pandemic year 2020 are included.
Thus 42% of the 21.5% reduction that occurred between 2005 and 2020 occurred in the pandemic year 2020. This is inappropriately characterized in the WSJ article as the emission reduction between 2005 and 2020 as being 21.5% which was due “in part” to the pandemic.
The average emission reduction of U.S. GHG emissions between 2005 and 2019 was under just 1% per year. The reduction in GHG emissions in the pandemic year of 2020 was over ten times greater (10.3%) than the average in the prior 14-year interval.
The source document for the year 2020 estimated GHG reductions figures used in the WSJ article includes the following descriptions of the overwhelming unsustainable economic impact of the pandemic on the GHG reductions in year 2020 and the implications, or lack thereof, for these reductions occurring in the future.
“Based on preliminary 2020 data, we estimate that net economy-wide US GHG emissions fell by 10.3% in 2020, to 5,160 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent. That represents the single largest drop in annual emissions in the post-World War II period, and far outpaces the record 6.3% drop in emissions in 2009 during the Great Recession. As a result, US emissions drop below 1990 levels for the first time in three decades. Compared to 2005 levels, the US reduced emissions by 21.5%, exceeding its Copenhagen Accord commitment of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.”
“Unfortunately, 2020 tells us little about what we can expect to see in 2021 and beyond. It certainly shouldn’t be considered a down payment toward meeting the 2025 US target under the Paris Agreement of 26-28% below 2005 levels. The enormous toll of economic damage and human suffering as a result of the pandemic is no cause for celebration. The vast majority of 2020’s emission reductions were due to decreased economic activity and not from any structural changes that would deliver lasting reductions in the carbon intensity of our economy. If COVID-19 and the resulting recession hadn’t happened, we estimate that US emissions would have declined by only around 3% this year, driven in large part by the decline of coal-fired power generation and to a lesser extent the reduction in heating demand due to warmer winter weather. With growth expected to bounce back in 2021 (most forecasts currently project GDP growth of 3 to 4%), emissions will likely increase as well absent a concerted effort.”
“Several of the hardest hit economic sectors—including transportation, electric power, and industry—are also the leading sources of US GHG emissions. With the possible exception of the power sector—where coal’s decline has been driving a steady reduction in power sector emissions over the past decade—emission reductions in 2020 resulted largely from reductions in overall economic activity. Travel demand faced the steepest drop-off this year, leading to a 14.7% decline in transportation sector emissions between 2019 and 2020 (Figure 1). Power sector emissions dropped 10.3%—driven by a nearly 19% reduction in emissions from coal generation, year-on-year. That’s the largest year-on-year decline in recorded history, breaking last year’s record fall. Industrial emissions were down 7.0% and emissions from buildings were down 6.2%, year-on-year.”
These critical assessments addressing the huge economic impacts of the pandemic on U.S. GHG reductions in year 2020 are simply ignored in the WSJ article and hidden from view by inappropriately noting that the level of U.S. 2005 through 2020 GHG reductions of 21.5% were driven “in part” by the pandemic. The far reaching and huge negative economic impacts of the pandemic lockdowns on the U.S. economic sectors are presented in more detail in the information discussed below.
Figure 1 (from the Rhodium Group study) shows that about 90% of the U.S. GHG reductions prior to the pandemic economic decline (the period between 2005 and 2019) were provided by the Power sector with EIA data showing that about 62% of the CO2 reductions (the great majority of all GHG emissions) are accounted for by fuel substitution with increased use of natural gas in place of coal and about 38% due to increased use of renewables.
The increased use of lower cost, higher efficiency and lower emissions natural gas obtained through fracking technology successfully drove the great majority of U.S. emissions reductions between 2005 and 2019. Year 2019 U.S. CO2 levels last occurred in year 1979 some 40 years ago.
Yet astoundingly the WSJ article notes that “Since his inauguration in January, Mr. Biden has suspended new oil and gas leases on federal land,”. This action by the Biden Administration clearly demonstrates the extraordinary energy and climate policy incompetence of Biden, Democrats and their media cabal where the huge benefits of natural gas are destroyed by misguided political fiat without regard to the massive success that fracking technology has created in the U.S. by delivering lower cost, higher efficiency and lower emission natural gas that has produced the largest U.S. CO2 emissions reductions ever achieved by our nation.
The U.S. is gifted with an abundance of lower cost, higher efficiency and lower emissions natural gas resources with the availability of fracking technology to obtain these resources. If Biden and his Democrats were competent in trying to cost effectively reduce U.S. CO2 emissions they would recognize that 60% of U.S. electricity generation emissions result from the use of coal fuel despite the huge reduction in the use of this fuel resource that has occurred since 2005.
Rather than stifling the use of natural gas in the future they should be promoting its use to further reduce coal fuel being used in the electricity generation sector which would decrease CO2 emissions from coal by over 60% while lowering costs and increasing generation efficiency.
Using fuel substitution of natural gas in CCGTs to replace the remaining coal generation through year 2030 would reduce resulting CO2 levels by over 600 million metric tons. CCGT generation is fully dispatchable (unlike renewables) and enhances the reliability of the electric grid while providing grid stability features including voltage, frequency, synchronization, spinning and standby reserves that cannot be provided by renewable energy resources.
Biden and his Democrats have been incredibly foolish and incompetent to stifle the continued and growing use of abundantly available natural gas in the U.S.
The huge reduced economic activity during the pandemic period most significantly impacted the Transportation, Industry and Buildings economic sectors and accounted for about 70% of the total GHG emissions reductions during the year 2020 pandemic period as shown in Figure 4 below from the Rhodium study.
The emissions reductions in the Transportation, Industry and Buildings sectors are not reflective of structural changes in the economy and will see increased emissions in the future as normal economic activity is resumed unless the economically damaging “lockdown” tactics of Biden and his Democrats are continued as part of their new national energy and climate policy plans. The dramatic economic impacts of the pandemic “lockdown” in the Transportation sector which represented about 50% of the GHG emission reductions in year 2020 are shown in Figures 2 and 3 below from the Rhodium study.
The GHG emissions reduction changes in the Power sector derived from fuel substitution changes using natural gas and renewables in place of coal fuel with natural gas providing about 70% of the increased generation production outcomes shown in Figure 5 below from the Rhodium study.
Regarding the proposed future U.S. emissions reduction target mentioned by Biden’s study group of 50% below year 2005 levels by year 2030 as being achievable based upon emissions reduction results achieved to date (including pandemic year 2020 reductions) this target is clearly unrealistic given the administrations flawed decision to suspend oil and gas leases on federal lands thus destroying the ability to increase use of natural gas in continuing to cost effectively replace use of coal fuel which still accounts for about 24% of U.S. electricity.
Also retaining the huge emissions reductions achieved in other than the Power sector in year 2020 in the future is completely unfeasible unless the economically and incredibly destructive lockdowns of year 2020 are mandated as a permanent part of our future by Biden and his Democrats.
“Ms. McCarthy declined to preview the coming target. “This is not going to be about what’s my favorite idea, or what might I want to hope for.…We’re going to let the data drive the result,” she said, referring to climate modeling and other analytics that will help administration officials decide what emissions cuts are possible.”
This is the Democratic Party’s contrived political speak which falsely claims that we are “following the science” where unproven and unvalidated computer “models” are employed to supposedly support their infallible policy schemes when in fact these “models” are completely unsuitable for credible policy action decisions. The historian Daniel Boorstin wrote: “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge” which certainly applies to the Democrats “follow the science” political slogan shenanigans.
“As the April 22 Earth Day summit approaches, the White House has launched an all-of-government analysis to craft a target that is both ambitious and achievable, according to administration officials.”
So Biden and his cohorts want to use Earth Day to launch yet another flawed and failed scheme to follow all the other clueless and failed environmental schemes launched at Earth Day events over the last 5 decades.
An even worse failure of the WSJ article and the Biden Administration efforts to ban natural gas and mandate misguided, unrealistic and costly increased emission reduction targets for the U.S. is the concealment of the global picture regarding energy use and emissions that clearly shows the world’s developing nations dominating all global energy use and emissions. The developing nations have made continuing commitments to future additional growth of fossil fuels that will only further enlarge their energy use and emissions dominance regardless of any politically contrived actions the Biden administration takes regarding future U.S. energy and emissions policy.
The developing nation fossil fuel energy driven nations now control about 65% of all global emissions and are committed to increased use of coal and other fossil fuels in the future. Their actions make the energy and climate emissions reduction scheme policies of the Biden administration irrelevant with increased global emissions being inevitable thereby demonstrating that Biden’s policies on energy and emissions are both incompetent and unnecessarily destructive to our nation’s economy.
The year 2020 BP global statistical energy data report provides detailed global energy and emissions data for the period 1965 through 2019.
The BP data shows the U.S. CO2 emissions peaking in year 2007 with year 2019 U.S. CO2 emissions now about 16% below peak 2007 levels amounting to a reduction of over 900 million metric tons (more than any other nation in the world) with these reductions driven predominately by increased use of lower cost, higher efficiency and lower emissions natural gas obtained through fracking technology to replace coal fueled power plants.
In contrast to the significant U.S. CO2 emission reductions in the period 2007 through 2019 the world’s developing nations have increased CO2 emissions by over 5.7 billion metric tons with China and India’s contribution to this huge increase being about 3.7 billion metric tons. The developing nations accounted for ALL global energy growth in the period 2007 through 2019 with increased energy use of over 43%. These nations also accounted for ALL growth in global CO2 emissions during this period as well with increased emissions of over 35%. The only nations increasing total global energy use and emissions growth are the world’s developing nations. The world’s developed nations reduced both their energy use and emissions during this period by 2.5% and 12% respectively.
China and India have both announced plans to further increase their use of coal and other fossil fuels regardless of what Biden and the Democrats decide to undertake to damage the U.S. economy in the name of computer “model” driven speculative and exaggerated claims of climate change impacts.
China’s CO2 emissions are now double those of the U.S. with China consuming 50% more energy than the U.S. Additionally China continued to increase its use of coal fuel and in year 2019 used 2.5 times the amount of coal as all 37 nations that make up the world’s OECD developed nations which includes the U.S. and EU nations. In 2019 the world’s developing nations used fossil fuels to meet 87% of their energy needs while also using less than half the percentage of renewable energy in their energy mix than the world’s developed nations.
Biden, his Democrats and his media cabal ignore and conceal the reality that his administration’s actions to mandate economically damaging emissions reductions, increased use of costly and unreliable renewables and decreased use of lower cost, higher efficiency an lower emissions natural gas are destructive to the U.S. economy and its people while being completely irrelevant to the ever upward climbing fossil global energy use and emissions outcomes resulting from the world’s developing nations present and future growth policy that require significantly increased use of coal and other fossil fuels.
The famous American philosopher Forest Gump once said: “Stupid is as stupid does.” That clearly applies to Biden and his Democrats energy and climate policy and politics.