2020 Talking Points on CO2 Emissions

By Alex Epstein

The only practical way to lower global CO2 emissions is to encourage innovation that could make low-carbon energy cheap for everyone. Policies like the Green New Deal and the Biden Plan that would outlaw American fossil fuel use won’t stop global CO2 emissions from rising--but they will ruin America.

Quick summary

  1. Many Democratic politicians claim that if America rapidly eliminates fossil fuel use, even at enormous cost, it will be worth it to lower CO2 levels and avoid a climate crisis. But the US causes less than 1/6 of global emissions—and falling.1
  2. The main reason global CO2 emissions are rising is because billions of people in the developing world are bringing themselves out of poverty by using fossil fuels to power factories, farms, vehicles, and appliances.2
  3. The developing world overwhelmingly uses fossil fuels because that is by far the lowest-cost way for them to get reliable energy. Unreliable solar and wind can’t come close. That’s why China and India have hundreds of new coal plants under construction.3
  4. The only way to lower CO2 emissions and benefit America is to promote innovation that makes low-carbon energy truly reliable and low-cost. Are China and India going to stop using fossil fuels so long as they are the lowest-cost option? They won’t and they shouldn’t.
  5. America can lower emissions and energy costs by decriminalizing nuclear energy. Nuclear is actually the safest source of energy and the only way to provide reliable non-carbon electricity anywhere in the world. Yet politicians are overregulating it to death.4
  6. America can also lower emissions and energy costs by lifting irrational restrictions on natural gas, such as anti-fracking policies and pipeline opposition. Yet Joe Biden and most Democrats want to stop fracking and new pipelines.5 6
  7. The fossil fuel bans and “renewables only” policies supported by most Democratic politicians will make American energy incredibly unreliable and expensive. That won’t stop CO2 emissions from rising but it will ruin the American economy.

References


  1. The U.S. Energy Information Administration in its reference case projects an overall increase of CO2 emissions for the world while America continues to reduce emissions slightly. As of 2017 US CO2 emissions were less than 15% of the global total. U.S. EIA International Energy Outlook 2019 reference case

  2. The largest increase in energy consumption is projected to come from non-OECD countries, but this might be underestimating future growth potential for the poorest regions in Africa.

    U.S. EIA International Energy Outlook 2019 reference case

  3. Combined, China and India have 288 new coal plants (over 300 GW of capacity) under construction or in the planning phase as of July 2020. Global Coal Tracker by Global Energy Monitor

  4. Nuclear energy is statistically the safest form of energy production by a wide margin, regardless of whether one takes into account speculative health impacts from air pollution, which nuclear technology does not create. No other relevant technologies cause so few casualties per unit of energy produced.

    World Nuclear Association - Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors

  5. “Between 2005 and 2018, EIA has calculated that cumulative U.S. CO2 emissions reductions attributable specifically to shifts from coal to natural gas and to non-carbon generation totaled 4,621 MMmt (see methodology on page 19). Of this total, 2,823 MMmt resulted from decreased use of coal and increased use of natural gas. 1,799 MMmt resulted from decreased use of coal and increased use of non-carbon generation sources.” - U.S. Energy Information Administration - U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2018

  6. In a Democratic primary debate in March 2020 Joe Biden agreed to a radical “no new fracking” policy to attract Democratic voters. While most of the US unconventional oil and gas operations take place on private lands, even a federal policy banning new development would be a substantial hit on domestic energy production.

    Joe Biden’s energy plan also calls for a net-zero CO2 emissions economy wide by no later than 2050. His climate plan also promises aggressive new methane emission limits. Effectively, this amounts to a ban and early retirement of coal, gas, and oil for electricity generation (over 60% of the current total), as there is no cost-effective technology available to capture CO2 from fuel combustion, even though Biden tried to backpedal on the direct attacks against fracking recently.