We’ll always have Paris

First published in the Lake Champlain Weekly
Written by Quentin Langley

President Trump has decided to pull the US out of the Paris agreement on climate change, in which more than 190 countries pledged to aim at stabilising or reducing their carbon emissions. The agreement has no status in American law. It is not a treaty. If it had been a treaty then President Obama would have had to send it to the Senate for ratification. Since it would have required a two thirds majority, it would probably have failed. What one president can promise with a wave of his pen another can un-promise with a similar gesture.

At the time of writing the hysterical reactions have hardly begun. By the time you read this column, one group of deranged partisans will have claimed that this will mean the destruction of the planet (it won’t) that it will destroy America’s already tattered image abroad (it certainly won’t help) that Trump has done it to oblige the oil industry in general and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in particular (Tillerson, like the company he once ran, Exxon Mobil, supports the deal) and that Trump has done it to suit the Russians (who hate him and don’t care one way or the other about Paris).

Another group of deranged conspiracy theorists will have claimed that climate change is a hoax (it is very real) that this agreement was strangling the economy (it wasn’t).

Implementing the agreement will save American industry and households a fortune. But, don’t worry. You won’t have to pay the costs of not implementing the deal because the US is going to meet its targets under the agreement anyway.

There is one reason for this, and environmentalists who regard such stabilization as essential to save the planet had better look away now. The hero of this story is the oil and gas industry, and the reason US carbon emissions are going down is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Barack Obama deserves little or no credit for this. He was, ineffectively, against fracking, and his administration half-heartedly tried to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, which creates an export market for natural gas from Canada and the US. His State Department favored the pipeline and his EPA opposed it, but now the plan is going ahead.

Donald Trump deserves no credit either. He supports Keystone XL, but rode to power promising to end the “war on coal” and to revive the American coal industry. He can do neither. Most of burden of regulations and lawsuits against the coal industry are at the state level, and coal is losing out to gas in the power generation market because it is more expensive. It is also the filthiest fuel known to humanity, and the use of natural gas instead will reduce carbon emissions and acid rain.

Sadly, whoever is president in five years time doesn’t get to go to Paris and boast that the US has met its targets while almost none of the other countries will have done so. Such a foolish sacrifice to appease deranged conspiracy theorists.

(The author used to work at Shell, but has had no significant professional connection with the oil and gas industry for 20 years)

 

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