Research & Commentary: EPA Finds Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Decline Despite Soaring Oil and Gas Production
Tim Benson, The Heartland Institute, April 13, 2023
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2023 Draft Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) was released in early March, revealing total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States were 2 percent below their 1990 levels in 2021, falling from a high of 15.7 percent above 1990 levels in 2007.
According to the GHGI, all GHG emissions have fallen 15 percent since 2005, while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have fallen 18 percent, methane emissions have decreased 8 percent, and power-sector CO2 emissions have fallen 36 percent over that same period. This has occurred while natural gas production has increased by 97 percent, natural gas-fired electric generation has increased 108 percent, and natural gas consumption has increased by 39 percent.
Oil production has also increased 53 percent since 1990, and methane emissions from the oil and gas industries, specifically, have fallen 13 percent over the same period, including a 4 percent reduction since 2020.
All of this is a direct result of the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) revolution that has made accessible large natural gas and oil reserves and transformed the country’s energy outlook over the past 18 years.
Quite simply, despite opposition from environmental groups, who have attempted to ban fracking at every opportunity, the industry has transformed the nation’s long-term energy outlook. Moreover, its gradual replacement of coal in the country’s energy portfolio is the main driver of these dramatic reductions in GHG emissions.
Not only is fracking helping reduce GHG emissions, it is also providing large economic benefits to local communities located near drilling activities. A study published in the American Economic Review in April 2017 found, “each million dollars of new [oil and gas] production produces $80,000 in wage income and $132,000 in royalty and business income within a county. Within 100 miles, one million dollars of new production generates $257,000 in wages and $286,000 in royalty and business income.”
Fracking delivers $1,300 to $1,900 in annual benefits to local households, including, “a 7 percent increase in average income, driven by rises in wages and royalty payments, a 10 percent increase in employment, and a 6 percent increase in housing prices,” according to a December 2016 study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Fossil fuels have benefited human health by making possible the dramatic increase in human prosperity that has occurred since the first Industrial Revolution, which made possible investments in goods and services that are essential to protecting human health and prolonging human life,” conclude the authors of a 2018 Heartland Institute Policy Brief. “Fossil fuels further improve human health by making environmental protection both valued and financially possible, and by powering technologies that protect human health and extend lives, including electricity, cars and trucks, and plastics.”
Fracking enables the cost-effective extraction of once-inaccessible oil and natural gas deposits. These energy sources are abundant, inexpensive, environmentally safe, and can ensure the United States remains a leading energy producer well beyond the twenty-first century. Therefore, policymakers should refrain from placing unnecessary burdens on the natural gas and oil industries, which are safe and have a positive impact on the environment and economy.