To Fight Air Pollution and Global Warming, Think Globally

Global warming advocates at The Energy Collective have published an article perfectly illustrating how people seeking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions must act globally rather than wasting time and opportunities by focusing scorn on the United States.

The article, titled “An Air Pollution Paradox?”, presents a global map of air pollution in the form of particulate matter, produced by State of Global Air 2017. The map illustrates that the United States rates among the very top tier of nations in terms of clean air. For nations with our density of population and degree of industrialization, America ranks at the very top. For all the moralizing from Germany, France, and others about global warming, the air pollution map shows these nations have a long way to go in terms of utilizing energy from clean sources.

Image courtesy of State of Global Air 2017.

Image courtesy of State of Global Air 2017.

Energy sources like nuclear power and natural gas emit no carbon dioxide or traditionally defined air pollutants. Natural gas power emits a very small amount of traditional air pollutants and a modest amount of carbon dioxide. Coal power emits a relatively large amount of carbon dioxide and traditional air pollutants.

People in Europe, Africa, and Asia are subjected to air quality that is significantly worse than that of the United States. People in these portions of the world desire cleaner air. Particularly in Asia and Africa, however, they cannot afford the economy-stifling prices of wind and solar power. This has negative implications for emissions of carbon dioxide and traditional air pollutants.

Although President Trump is skeptical of alarmist global warming claims and he indicates he will not work within the Paris climate accord, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions continue to decline faster than any other nation in the world. The transformation of the U.S. electricity sector from coal power to natural gas power is the primary reason for this. This has occurred, and will continue to occur, regardless of whether the United States works within the Paris climate accord. Nations like Germany and France castigate the United States for not signing on to their new bureaucracy, while at the same time those nations suffer worse air quality and make less progress on carbon dioxide emissions than the United States.

The air pollution map illustrates an opportunity to make more meaningful global emissions reductions while also benefiting the U.S. economy. Europe, Asia, and Africa have not benefited from natural gas power as much as the United States because natural gas is much more expensive overseas than in the United States. Russia is the world’s leading exporter of natural gas, yet Russian natural gas is twice as expensive as U.S. natural gas. Given a choice between clean but expensive natural gas and much more affordable coal power, other nations – and particularly the Asian nations that lead the world in carbon dioxide emissions growth – choose affordable coal power.

Currently, the United States has only one operational facility to export affordable natural gas overseas. The two most effective ways for America to impact carbon dioxide emissions (as well as clean air, generally), is to (1) ensure American energy producers can continue producing natural gas, and (2) expand our export facilities so we can ship affordable natural gas overseas. This will reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, improve air quality in heavily pollution countries, and bring overseas dollars back to the American economy.

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