Issues 2016: Reality Check. Fracking, Not Solar Power, is Reducing U.S. Carbon-Dioxide Emissions
November 4, 2015
Energy & EnvironmentRegulationsTechnology / InfrastructureClimateEconomicsOther
“We’ll also keep doing what we can to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late. Over the past six years, we’ve led by example, generating more clean energy and lowering our carbon emissions.” – Barack Obama
“I’m very proud that the state of Vermont banned fracking. I hope communities all over California, all over America, do the same.” – Bernie Sanders
For all of the attention and federal funds given to renewable energy, it remains a blip on America’s energy radar: solar power represents less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Wind and solar power together generated less electricity in the first half of 2015 than in the first half of 2014, and investment in the industry has been flat for almost five years, domestically and globally.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen significantly since their peak in 2007—more than in any other country. The biggest cause is America’s fracking-led natural gas boom: solar power is responsible for 1 percent of the decline in U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions; natural gas is responsible for nearly 20 percent.
After peaking in 2007, U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions were 1,022 million tons (Mt) lower in 2014 than had they grown, since 2007, at the same rate as the U.S. economy.
Of that reduction, 19 percent came from a fuel shift toward natural gas for electricity generation.
Only 1 percent came from the increased use of solar power.
Neither renewable-energy generation nor investment is growing rapidly—or at all.
Year-over-year growth in the generation of wind and solar power has consistently fallen since 2008. Generation in the first half of 2015 was lower than in the first half of 2014.
Global investment in both wind and solar declined in 3Q:2015 compared with 3Q:2014; in the U.S., investment grew slightly but remains below the 2011 peak.