European leaders have spent years trying and pointedly failing to solve the climate crisis with regulation. Whether intentionally or not, U.S. policymakers have mostly avoided top-down solutions. And counterintuitively, or perhaps it should have been intuitive, the U.S. now leads the developed world in reducing carbon emissions.
Policymakers can learn an important lesson from this. The key to fighting climate change is to unleash the power of the free market, not to embrace every green politician's or activist's nutty new idea.
America faces a dilemma. Will it focus on real environmental problems that do measurable harm to human and ecological wellbeing, or will it mandate policies to head off climate disasters that are based on warming predictions have been repeatedly proven wrong by real-world empirical observations? Will it recognize that harnessing intermittent, weather-dependent wind and solar energy requires enormous amounts of raw materials and mining, resulting in massive land-use impacts and human rights abuses, and is anything but clean, green, renewable, and sustainable? Or will it ignore all this?
Solar farms generate only 1.5 percent of the nation’s electricity and would be an inefficient way to generate the more than 8 billion megawatt-hours of power that fossil fuels and nuclear provide each year to meet industrial, commercial, residential, and automotive transportation needs and charge backup-power batteries.
The United States led the entire world in reducing CO2 emissions last year while also experiencing solid economic growth, according to a newly released report. “The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt,” The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported on Tuesday. “US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.”
“A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019,” the IEA continued. “Coal-fired power plants faced even stronger competition from natural gas-fired generation, with benchmark gas prices an average of 45% lower than 2018 levels. As a result, gas increased its share in electricity generation to a record high of 37%. Overall electricity demand declined because demand for air-conditioning and heating was lower as a result of milder summer and winter weather. The IEA noted that 80% of the increase in CO2 emissions came from Asia and that China and India both contributed significantly to the increase.
"Instead of banning fossil fuels outright, the U.S. embraced natural gas amid a boom in its production. Thanks to a process called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," we've managed to tap new reserves of natural gas. In 2015, the U.S. surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world's top producer of natural gas. By 2018, energy companies produced over 60% more natural gas than they had two decades earlier. This newfound abundance of natural gas has helped our nation transition away from coal, which emits twice as much carbon dioxide.
Thanks to this shift, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have hit 30-year lows, even as global emissions have increased by 50% during the same period. And since 2005, natural gas has done more to reduce power sector dioxide emissions than all renewable energy sources combined, according to the Energy Information Administration.
By eschewing regulation, America has also spurred additional emissions-reducing innovations in the private sector. Freed from red tape, U.S. energy firms have been able to devise and implement a host of groundbreaking green technologies.
Companies are searching for ways to deal with the tens of thousands of blades that have reached the end of their lives...A wind turbine’s blades can be longer than a Boeing 747 wing, so at the end of their lifespan they can’t just be hauled away. First, you need to saw through the lissome fiberglass using a diamond-encrusted industrial saw to create three pieces small enough to be strapped to a tractor-trailer.
The municipal landfill in Casper, Wyoming, is the final resting place of 870 blades whose days making renewable energy have come to end. The severed fragments look like bleached whale bones nestled against one another.
Tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills. In the U.S. alone, about 8,000 will be removed in each of the next four years. Europe, which has been dealing with the problem longer, has about 3,800 coming down annually through at least 2022, according to BloombergNEF. It’s going to get worse: Most were built more than a decade ago, when installations were less than a fifth of what they are now.