More Renewables or Less CO2? The Choice Climate Change Environmentalists Avoid
Senator Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti (D- Harford) have proposed legislation this year raising the state’s reliance on electricity produced from so-called renewable sources from 25% to 50%. These sources include solar energy, wind, biomass, anaerobic decomposition, geothermal and ocean, among others. The measures — Senate bill 516 and House bill 1158 — also requires legislators to conduct a study to assess the costs and benefits of increasing the renewable energy standard to 100% by 2040.
All too often energy policy is framed in the context of opposition to fossil fuels. Renewables are erroneously presented as the only possible response to reduce CO2 emissions and thus avoid climate change threats. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the Friends of the Earth have rallied around a sweeping economic agenda contained in the “Green New Deal.”
They largely ignore that from 2005 to 2017, U.S. energy related emissions of carbon dioxide plunged by 861 million metric tons, a 14% drop. 2017 marked the ninth time in this century that the US has had the largest decline in emissions in the world. Despite their signing the Paris climate accords, the European countries saw their output of CO2 rise 1.5%, at the same time US output declined. The centralized “command and control” regulatory model preferred by Europeans and environmental groups turns out to be ineffective at reducing carbon emissions.[i]
Not too coin a phrase, but the inconvenient truth is that this drop was made possible by the natural gas fracking revolution. CO2 emissions in the electric power sector have plunged 25% since 2005. The irrefutable math associated with the change is that the cause has been the transition to natural gas.[ii] While renewables are used to generate barely 10% of electric power, natural gas is now the leading fuel source for electricity generation. Back in 2005, coal had provided nearly 50% of electric power.
Fracking in the Marcellus Shale geological formation found throughout the northern Appalachian basin in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Western Maryland has revolutionized US energy economics. Within it, the US Energy Department estimates 262 trillion cubic feet of natural gas exists, making it the largest onshore natural gas reserve in the U.S.
Regrettably though, Maryland has passed on cashing in on the economic bonanza other states are reaping. According to a Penn State study, just over the border to the north, that state’s Marcellus Shale producers have generated an estimated $12.8 billion in economic activity annually. Over multiple years the extra income translates to almost $2.6 billion in additional state and local tax revenue. Ohio has added 6,000 jobs and over $400 million in new tax revenues.
Environmentalists can be counted on to offer a parade of horribles to prevent Maryland fracking. Yet after Congress directed Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency to study fracking, the EPA analyzed more than 3,500 sources of information, including previously published papers, state reports and the agency’s own scientific research. As one would expect, or at least hope, if the EPA had any solid scientific evidence to question fracking, it would have been reported by this time. However, the EPA’s conclusion has been that no compelling evidence against fracking has yet been unearthed.
Yet rather than embrace this energy transition that has actually been reducing CO2 emissions, both Delegate Lisanti and Senator Feldman stood in the way of natural gas and fracking, voting against it in 2017.[iii]
If climate change really presents an existential near-term threat to mankind’s survival, one would expect those most afraid to embrace strategies to reduce CO2 emissions. The insincerity of those professing to be alarmed by climate change is exposed by their continued opposition to actually reduce CO2 emissions through natural gas use.
The good news is that the Feldman-Lisanti bill is unlikely to succeed this year. The reason has little to do with its lack of merits. Instead, it is that the House sponsor Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti has been roundly condemned in the General Assembly for her use of the “n” word. She has been stripped of her committee assignments and is being completely ignored legislatively.