Coal is headed out the front door as the Trump administration hands the issue over to the states, but natural gas is coming in through the back.
However, the positive carbon dioxide impacts of natural gas--which undoubtedly has contributed to our greenhouse-gas reductions in recent years--are blurred by methane emissions and impacts caused by the extraction process of hydraulic fracturing, aka "fracking." While it is true that combustion of natural gas emits far less climate change-inducing carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels, in other ways fracking poses risks that could exacerbate other global-warming realities.
According to Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, "the problem is we're withdrawing water faster than it's coming in, and any new demand for that water when there isn't enough to go around is going to put further stress on our water."
For states that already suffer water challenges, which may be intensified by warming climates, the water-intensive nature of fracking may make it undesirable. As climate change impacts water supplies, who gets the water? Thirsty people or power plants? I think we know who wins.
But alas, the scientific community and its peer-reviewed research is attacked by climate hoaxers, especially goaded on in the current administration's anti-science, anti-climate realism tenure. Fortunately, no matter how much you scream "fake news," it doesn't change the facts.
Natural gas may be a cheap alternative to coal--and one that can help reduce carbon emissions--but the tradeoff is potentially more damaging effects, and not just on our health and drinking water. When you consider the EPA's proposed rollback of methane restrictions, relying on natural gas as the alternative to coal doesn't seem feasible.
So where does that leave humankind and our efforts to solve climate change? Coal is bad. Natural gas is sort of bad. While battery technology is improving and should relieve anxiety posed by intermittent sources of energy like solar and wind, renewables cannot and will not make up 100 percent of our power generation, probably ever.
Fortunately, we live in a land of opportunity. We are not limited in our options to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and there is a way to incentivize innovation. It lies in a policy that creates jobs, cleans up our air, and promotes technological advancements in the energy sector. This policy doesn't cost the American family one cent, and could in fact put money back into their pockets each year instead of being used on the many failed government programs we have.
So what is this magical policy? It's not so much magical as it is common sense. A price on carbon--whether a straight-up revenue-neutral, border-adjustable tax as advocated by even conservative economists or the carbon fee and dividend policy advocated by former Secretaries of State Jim Baker and George Shultz--is one of the most efficient and effective ways to reduce carbon emissions.
If regulatory rollback is your thing and limited federal government is why you call yourself a Reagan conservative, then a price on carbon is for you as well. Under existing proposals, in exchange for the price on carbon, regulations such as the Clean Power Plan would be phased out.
Conservatives should embrace the potential for a tax on carbon and the conservative benefits that come along with living in a healthier environment with reduced federal government interference. Conservatives need to embrace the issue of climate change and take action rather than run from it as the millennial generation becomes the biggest voting bloc in our country. With 81 percent of our ranks supporting climate action--in equal strength across party lines--a carbon tax could be one of the few issues that allow Republicans and Democrats to work together.
Chris Casey is a U.S. Army veteran, a graduate student studying emergency management and homeland security at Arkansas Tech University, and spokesperson for republicEn.org.
Editorial on 10/25/2018
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