Don’t tell Greta Thunberg, but natural gas is responsible for more U.S. emissions reductions than solar and wind power combined.
Last week, the 17-year-old activist scolded those gathered at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. She demanded that they “immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, or 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now.”
However seriously you take global warming alarmism, this is a terrible idea. Divesting from fossil fuels sound innocuous, but it would upend the world economy. It would mean no gasoline-powered vehicles, a marked reduction in power generation and an elimination of air travel, including the private jets world leaders used to travel to Davos. Electric cars aren’t a viable alternative because the vast majority of the electrical grid is powered by fossil fuels.
Without fossil fuels, farmers couldn’t harvest their crops. Truck drivers couldn’t drive those crops to the grocery stores. Grocery stores couldn’t keep the lights on, run checkout machines or keep the milk cool. It wouldn’t matter much because consumers couldn’t drive to the store.
Without fossil fuels, water treatment plants couldn’t purify water. Air conditioners and heaters wouldn’t run. Hospitals couldn’t keep on life-saving machinery. If that doesn’t scare the millennials, this will. Immediately divesting from fossil fuels is a fancy way of saying you won’t be able to stream YouTube videos from your iPhone. All those things require electrical power. Power generation is overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels.
Aside from calling for the destruction of modern society, there’s another thing this rhetoric overlooks. Investing in fossil fuel power has done more to lower carbon emissions than every new solar and wind plant in the country.
From 2006 to 2018, the U.S. Energy and Information Administration calculated that power-related carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 4.6 billion metric tons, a decrease of more than 25 percent. Replacing coal with natural gas power is responsible for 61 percent of the decrease. Just 39 percent came from non-carbon based power, including wind and solar. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it releases far fewer emissions than coal power. These numbers suggest that the fastest way to reduce emissions is to replace coal plants with new natural gas plants. If Ms. Thunberg had her way, though, those decreases wouldn’t continue.
Those concerned about global warming should avoid alarmism. They should focus more on practical tools — like natural gas power — that can decrease emissions without wrecking the world economy.